Tokhang survivor who played dead cleared in direct assault case

Tokhang survivor who played dead cleared in direct assault case
The body of an alleged drug dealer lies on the ground after he was killed by an unidentified assailant in Manila on March 23, 2018. Philippine police said on March 22 they had shot dead 13 drug suspects, just days after President Rodrigo Duterte moved to take the country out of the International Criminal Court over its inquiry into his deadly drug war.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — A Quezon City court has cleared a man who survived being shot by police during an Oplan Tokhang operation by playing dead of direct assault, a charge filed against him by police way back in August 2016.

The Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 133 acquitted Efren Morillo as it ruled that the prosecution failed to prove that he actually resisted police and attacked them with a gun.

“The prosecution fell short as well of proving that accused Morillo seriously resisted and attacked the police operatives as none of the prosecution witnesses saw accused Morillo fire his gun. Forthwith, the acquittal of the accused Morillo is in order,” read the March 3 decision penned by Presiding Judge Gloria Monica Lopez-Lao released Friday to media.

The court also said that the alleged assault on the police officers did not happen at a time when they were in the lawful exercise of their duties.

“The Prosecution was not shown to have conducted its Oplan Tokhang on the day of the incident in compliance with PNP Rules,” it said.

It added, “In this case, the operatives cannot be presumed to have in the valid performance of their duties due to the irregularities in their operations as they failed to coordinate with agencies and the barangay.”

“As a consequence, the validity of their operation is tainted and the presumption of regularity no longer applies.”

The charge against Morillo was filed by police officers Emil Garcia, Allan Formilleza, James Aggarao, and Melchor Navisaga. Formilleza is said to have shot Morillo and his four companions, Anthony Comendo, Jessie Cule, Marcelo Daa Jr., and Rhaffy Gabo in an Oplan Tokhang operation in Payatas, Quezon City.

Morillo filed in March 2017 administrative charges against the police officers before the Office of the Ombudsman, but these remain pending.

But with this legal victory, Morillo believes that his case before the Ombudsman should soon be resolved in his favor.

“This decision is proof that truth will prevail and lives on,” Morillo and his legal team said in a statement. — Xave Gregorio

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