Police officers arrest Francisco Maneja Jr. after he pretended to be dead following what police claimed to be a shootout during a drug sting along Roxas Boulevard in Manila in a file photo dated Sept. 13, 2016.
Joven Cagande
‘Nanlaban’ survivor wins drug case
Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - September 2, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A man who pretended to be dead in what police alleged was a drug bust two years ago not only lived to tell his tale. He redeemed himself in court, after a Manila trial court judge acquitted him of illegal drug charges and questioned the police operation wherein he allegedly fought back.

In a decision dated Aug. 6, Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 40 Judge Alfredo Ampuan cleared Francisco Maneja Jr. from the police allegation that he fought back – a case of “nanlaban” – in a drug bust beside a restaurant in Malate, Manila on Sept. 13, 2016. 

Police claimed that Maneja and his alleged cohort George Huggins transacted with undercover police officers inside a tricycle along Roxas Boulevard before engaging them in a firefight. 

Maneja lived to tell his tale when he pretended to be dead, and moved only when members of media arrived.

‘A little odd’

While the police claimed Maneja pushed one undercover policeman out of the tricycle and Huggins fired at Police Officer 1 Orlando Gonzales, the judge said the police narrative is doubtful because common sense dictates that the alleged drug pushers would have sped off on board the tricycle.

“The court is not convinced that there was a legitimate buy-bust operation which gave rise to the shooting incident… It must be noted that the court finds the version of the prosecution a little odd as the same runs counter to human experience,” the judge said in his ruling. 
“If the accused indeed suspected that PO1 Gonzales was a police officer, and such suspicion prompted the accused to push him out of the tricycle, the accused and his companion would have run away, and would not have stepped out of the tricycle, fully aware that PO1 Gonzales might have had a backup,” the judge added. 

The court also said the police narrative is doubly doubtful because the police conducted the inventory of the drugs in the presence of a journalist in the hospital where Maneja was taken, instead of at the crime scene where there were reporters already present.

“The police officers offered no justifiable reason why they needed to wait for the contact media personnel when there were already present… To the mind of the court, it would have been more credible if the marking and inventory were done at the crime scene immediately after the incident,” it said.

Grilled, beaten

In his defense, Maneja said a man flagged him down while he was in the tricycle queue supposedly to bring sacks of rice to the Malate police station, where he said he was grilled and beaten to give details about the whereabouts of two alleged drug personalities.

He claimed that he was later handcuffed and brought to his tricycle, and then taken with another person to the site where the alleged shootout took place.

He was shot in the chest after alighting from the tricycle, Maneja testified.

When he moved, he heard someone “Huwag kayong lalapit dyan, may baril yan (Don’t approach him, he has a gun),” to which he responded “Wala po akong baril, tulungan niyo po ako, parang awa niyo na (I don’t have a gun, help me, have mercy).”

Maneja was ordered released from the Manila City Jail. 

FRANCISCO MANEJA JR. NANLABAN
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