7 cops charged with murder, arbitrary detention over fake drug bust in Bulacan

Murder and kidnapping charges have been filed against seven personnel of the intelligence and drug enforcement unit of the San Jose del Monte City police in Bulacan for allegedly detaining six men and killing two of them in what the law enforcers claimed to be an anti-drug operation.
The STAR / Edd Gumban, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice has charged seven police officers for murder and arbitrary detention over a fake buy-bust operation in Bulacan in February 2020 where six people were said to have been forcibly taken and two were later killed.

In a statement on Tuesday, the DOJ said the prosecution panel recommended the filing of six counts of murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code and six counts of arbitrary detention under Article 124 of the RPC against the seven police officers of San Jose Del Monte City Bulacan Police Station, Intelligence Section/City Drug Enforcement Unit (CDEU).

The following police personnel are facing charges:

  • PSSg. Benjie Enconado
  • PSSg. Irwin Joy Yuson
  • PCpl. Marlon Martus
  • PCpl. Edmund Catubay Jr.
  • PCpl. Harvy Albino
  • PCpl. Herbert Hernaded
  • Patrolman Rusco Virnar Madla

The six face charges over the "baseless and unlawful detention… of six innocent victims: Chamberlain Domingo, Chadwin Santos, Edmar Aspirin, Richard Salgado, Erwin Mergal and Jim Joshua Cordero." 

Mergal and Cordero were also later killed.

The DOJ said police had claimed they conducted three buy-bust operations on February 14, 15 and 18 "but in truth and in fact, no buy-bust operation was ever conducted against them."

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Citing the evidence submitted by the National Bureau of Investigation to the prosecution panel, the justice department said the victims were "unlawfully and forcibly taken on [Feb. 13, 2020]."

Cops claim buy-bust

Police claimed in the spot report that Erwin Mergal and Jim Joshua Cordero were arrested in a supposed buy-bust operation and violently resisted arresting cops, which forced the police to retaliate. They also said they recovered a caliber .38 Armscor revolver, an improvised shotgun and several sachets of shabu.

But NBI investigation showed that cops "forcibly took" Mergal and Cordero, with the four others to their police office "without legal ground".

Five days later, Mergal and Cordero were killed in a fabricated buy-bust operation, the bureau said in its complaint.

The DOJ said that the prosecution panel "resolved that the unsuspecting victims were taken because ‘they happened to pass by the area where a buy-bust operation took place."

"The eye-witness account of a person who was tasked to watch over the victims while they were being unlawfully detained inside the Intel Room of the IS/CDEU, and the photographs depicting the victims, all blindfolded and hand-tied, among others, supported the indictment of the [police officers]," it added.

The DOJ said the prosecution panel, composed of Senior Associate State Prosecutor Rodan Parrocha, SASP Wendell Bendoval and Assistant State Prosecutor Arturo Roxas, is waiting for the issuance of the warrant of arrest against the seven.

The resolution is dated November 2020, but the Information or charge sheet was filed only in August 2021.

Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar explained that the prosecution panel's draft resolution was submitted to the task force head in November 2020, but it had to go through discussions and evaluation.

"The final resolution was then forwarded to the prosecutor general on the first week of August," she added.

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