Losing faith in police investigation
“Ang pulis ug sundalo, usa ra gyud ni sila. Pagkangalan nga sibilyan, luoy ang sibilyan, ila ra gyud nang tabunan. Ipalutaw gyud nang ilang bakak (Police and soldiers are one and the same. Because the way they treat civilians, they cover things up, and surface lies).”– Sonny Cortes
By CHERYLL D. FIEL
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The stepfather of the eight-year-old boy allegedly killed by military fire in Mabini town, Compostela Valley does not have high hopes that truth will come out in the investigation that police conducted on the incident.
Police Senior Superintendent Camilo Cascolan, Compostela Valley Philippine National Police Provincial Director told local television news, TV Patrol, Monday, that they expect the results to be out by Wednesday.
“Ang police chief nga nag-imbestiga murag nagdumdum og hinog nga saging pagtudlo nga naay bala sa likod (The police chief seems to be waiting for a story to turn ripe—to reveal the fatal bullets came from the children’s backs),” Sonny Cortes told davaotoday.com as he described how police authorities went about the investigation at the crime scene in Sitio Kidaraan, Anitapan vilage, six days after the incident.
Cortes could clearly identify that the shots were fired from the level of the road where the boys were walking on their way home by nightfall of April 3. He said he heard only seven shots and he could tell that it came from the direction of the soldiers that he saw when he came to the aid of the boys just a little over a minute after the gunfire stopped.
He said he confronted Lt. Llorca, the team leader of the soldiers, why did they have to shoot his stepchildren.
But one of Llorca’s men, however, abruptly ordered him to turn off his flashlights because “they had enemies above (the hills).”
The military maintained that the victims were caught in a “legitimate encounter” with the New People’s Army (NPA). Philippine Army 1001st Brigade commander Colonel Angelito de Leon has made an announcement that their recovery of “empty shells and two landmines” prove this.
Cortes said he knew too well what is above the hills because that is where his farm is. “There are no NPAs (New People’s Army),” he swears as he was even there planting okra (lady’s fingers), before the incident happened.
He said the soldiers were just about two to three meters away from where the three boys, “Jonas,” 13, his stepsons, Roque, 8, and “Alvin,” 12, were walking in a single row. According to Alvin, they were talking, and Roque, who was in the middle, was holding the flashlight.
Cortes said he could not believe that there were, as police showed him, a total of seven bullet casings found in a different location from the soldiers’ position: three casings located two meters in front of Roque and about 12 meters from the direction behind his children.
“Ila gyud nang gidula (They are making this up),” Cortes asserted.
The incident happened on April 3, but Mabini police, Cortes said, had come to investigate the crime scene only on April 9, a day before Roque was buried.
Cortes said, the soldiers under Lt. Llorca had not left the crime scene since the incident. “Nagduda ko kay duha ka gabii gyud na sila dinha. Wa gyud sila kahawa (I really am suspicious because they stayed there for two nights and never left),” Cortes said. “Ila nang giplano daan nga molusot sila sa nga engkwentro gyud ang nahitabo sa akong anak (They really planned this out so they can justify there was an encounter when they shot my son),” he pointed out.
Cortes questioned why the police came to the crime scene only six days after the incident when he had already made a blotter at the police station a day after the incident. He said he will not be surprised if the police will toe the line of the military insisting that what happened was a “legitimate encounter.”
“Ang pulis ug sundalo, usa ra gyud ni sila. Pagkangalan nga sibilyan, luoy ang sibilyan, ila ra gyud nang tabunan. Ipalutaw gyud nang ilang bakak (Police and soldiers are one and the same. Because the way they treat civilians, they cover things up, and surface lies),” Cortes said.
Cortes also hoped the autopsy results will not be tampered.
“Kami man, kung unsa may dangatan ani, dawaton namo, pero dako lang nga pangutana nganong wala mi nakapadulot nga kumpleto man unta mi sa ebidensya (Whatever comes out of this, we will accept, but the big question will be why we could not make them answer for what happened when we have evidence),”Cortes said.
Cortes also cited the military’s arrogance for refusing to heed Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy who asked that Lt. Llorca and his men should pull out and surrender their firearms to authorities.
He said he heard the Governor himself told the military man (who he believed is an assistant of Col. Borja, the commanding officer of the 71st Infantry Battalion) who went to bring PHP 10,000 aid for the family while he was in Mabini, on April 4, a day after the incident happened.
“Wa mi nagtuo nga nga pagsubida namo sa lugar, naa pa gihapon sila didto, nagsinibilyan, mga sundalo nga kauban ni Llorca, nagpabantang-bantang sa amoa [We can’t believe that when we went up again (with the quick response team), they were there in civilian clothes, the soldiers under Llorca ],” he said.
Cortes also questioned why the police did not even arrest Lt. Llorca when he already identified him as a suspect.
According to Cortes, he knew Lt. Llorca for a year as the leader of the troops to his community, conducted “peace and development” campaigns and acting as security escort to mining companies.
Cortes went to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)-XI last Monday to file an affidavit. He hopes that indeed the CHR will be true to the words of one of its investigating officers who told him that they are an “impartial body.”
According to CHR Special Investigator III Emiliano Cajes Jr., they welcome the action of the victims who are seeking redress of grievance.
Cajes said that the CHR also need to get the side of the military on the incident and to go to the area where the incident happened. He did not give details of their investigation.
Cortes said “Kay kami wa gyud mi nahibal-an sa proseso aning unsaon ang mga pasikot-sikot. Ang sa amo lang gyud, mangita mig hustisya. Hustisya lang gyud para sa akong anak. Kay di man magsilbi nga kining mga sundaloha, maanad ra sila bayran ra mi (For us we don’t know a thing about these processes in the law. What we want is justice for my son. We can’t let these soldiers think they can buy any of us off).”
He added that he knew there were instances in the past where the military paid money to the victims to keep the case quiet. “Maayo nang, ug sa kuan, pa, patagmon gani sila, unsay silot, para wa nay lain pa sa akong anak mahitabo pa ani (As they say, it’s better if they get a dose of their own medicine, let them suffer so that my other children cannot suffer from this),” he added.
Cortes and his family have not returned to their home yet in Sitio Kidaraan since Roque was buried on April 10.
He said, they worry about their security but with groups expressing support for their quest for justice, he said he is hopeful that their case against the military will stand a chance. (Cheryll D. Fiel/davaotoday.com)