MANILA, Philippines — The recommendation of the Philippine National Police's internal affairs to impose a 40-day suspension against the cop who was involved in the fatal shooting of a teenager with special needs in Valenzuela City is still under review, the chief of the PNP said Wednesday.
To recall, 18-year-old Edwin Arnigo, who was diagnosed with intellectual disability as a comorbidity to his autism spectrum disorder, was shot dead when police raided a tupada or illegal cockfighting game in Valenzuela City.
The bullet was traced to the service firearm of Police Senior Master Sergeant Christopher Salcedo, who has since been recommended for suspension by the PNP Internal Affairs Service.
In a statement sent to reporters Wednesday, Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said that all resolutions of the IAS regarding administrative cases of rogue cops need to be reviewed by the Discipline, Law and Order Division, an office under the PNP Directorate for Personnel and Records Management.
“I understand the attitude of Erwin Arnigo’s family to the Internal Affairs Service’s recommended punishment to the police that led to his death in an anti-illegal gambling operation in Valenzuela last May,” said Eleazar.
“But just like other results of IAS investigations, this case will still be subjected to two more reviews— under the Discipline, Law and Order Division or DLOD of the DPRM and under the Office of the Chief PNP— to determine if there are solid legal grounds to justify the recommendations made. This is how due process works in your PNP."
The facts of the case remain unclear months later, which prompted the National Bureau of Investigation to step in to probe the incident.
Police leadership at the time said Arnigo was a suspect in the operation who reacted violently, but the teenager's family said he just happened to be in the area. They added that he had always had a fear of officers in uniform, while police said he suddenly grew violent.
Witnesses cited by the victim's family and Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian refuted the police claim that there was a scuffle that took place which led to the shooting.
"Right now, this case is being thoroughly reviewed by DLOD and as I promised to the Arnigo family and our compatriots, the result of your PNP's investigation and action in this regard will be fair," the PNP chief said.
Eleazar added in his statement that the family of victim Edwin Arnigo was "not satisfied" with the possibility of a 40-day suspension, claiming that the victim’s mother even sought Eleazar regarding the matter, saying that stiffer penalties must be enforced against the cop.
But as he has in most cases involving police abuse, the PNP chief appealed to the family to let the entire review process takes its course as there is no final decision yet on the matter, noting that the 40-day suspension is only a recommendation.
PWD groups questioned the narrative used by the police in explaining the "senseless and disturbing" death, calling it "baffling [that] not much details were provided."
"[That] has been used to explain every shooting involving teenagers. None of us in the community give credence to that old, overused story," PWD Philippines told Philstar.com earlier.
"This only strengthens the fact that persons with disabilities, especially those with intellectual disabilities are the easiest targets of abuse and violence, simply because they cannot articulately express themselves and that their testimonies are not given as much weight as a person without disabilities."
After the killing in late May, Eleazar vowed "a quick and impartial conduct of investigation regarding this incident."