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Opinion

‘Planting’

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Another case of “planting” drugs, a common practice among corrupt narcotics cops, took place in Tagaytay City in February when policemen from neighboring Mendez town in Cavite arrested a minor for allegedly pushing marijuana.

Let’s call the 17-year-old victim Mario. His name is withheld, because under our privacy laws minors should not be identified.

On the evening of Feb. 10, 2022, Mario asked permission from his mother, Mary Grace Morales, so he could play basketball in a covered and lit court with friends.

The teenager biked to Bgy. Guinhawa in Tagaytay City from his home in Bgy. Zambal to fetch his basketball mates who would go with him to the basketball court.

As Mario was waiting for his friends at a waiting shed, four cops in civvies got down from an unmarked car, forcibly handed him money, one P500bill and a P20 bill (these bills turned out to be marked). The cops then forced him into their vehicle.

The cops apparently mistook Mario for a drug pusher, their real target. The waiting shed was unlit.

Inside the car, the cops took turns beating him up while interrogating him. One of them hit the boy’s mouth so hard one of his upper front teeth flew, broken.

The cops were later identified; Chief Master Sgt. Victor Wecwecken was the team leader, and with him were S/Sgt. Reno Sarato Dodero, Cpl. Russelle de Torres Rollon and Patm. Ryan dela Cruz Dumrique.

Clearly, the policemen were operating outside of their jurisdiction as they are from Mendez town, and the boy’s arrest took place in Tagaytay City.

But the lawmen insisted that they were in their area of operation when Mario was apprehended. They said the apprehension took place in Bgy. Anuling Lejos II, Mendez town.

However, Mario’s basketball mates and a Bgy. Guinhawa tanod (guard) would later testify that Mario was arrested in their barangay.

Also, officials of Bgy. Anuling Lejos II district in Mendez said no apprehension took place in their area at the time the policemen said the boy’s arrest was made.

Mario’s captors booked him for pushing and possession of an illegal substance – two separate criminal offenses – and disobedience to persons in authority at the Mendez police station.

Results of medical tests on Mario showed that he was negative for drug use.

(From my experience as a police reporter, most drug pushers are users or addicts. Addicts push drugs to support their vice).

Mario was released to the custody of the local office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) after his mother, Mary Grace Morales, showed papers that he is still a minor.

A public prosecutor in Imus, which has jurisdiction over Mendez, later dismissed the drug charges against Mario.

Morales accompanied her son to our Isumbong mo kay Tulfo office on Tuesday, April 26, a month after filing an administrative case against the four Mendez cops.

The administrative case was filed before the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) in Camp Crame.

We at Isumbong mo kay Tulfo, a tribune in media, suggested to Morales to also file a criminal case against the policemen for framing her son and for abuse of a minor.

“Planting” of drugs by law enforcement agents on an innocent citizen is a heinous crime in the same category as murder, rape and plunder.

The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Law provides that planting of evidence on an innocent person is punishable by death.

But since then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished the death penalty – succumbing to pressure from an interfering Catholic clergy – drug planting has been reduced to life in prison.

There is no clear statistical report on the number of policemen who have been convicted of framing an innocent civilian on drug charges since the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Law was passed in 2002.

Perhaps victims of manufactured charges by the police fear reprisal from their erstwhile tormentors, and so no cop has ever gone to prison for “planting” drugs.

Or is it that our courts side with cops charged with framing innocent citizens on the presumption of regularity in the arrest of citizens?

When Isumbong checked with the Mendez police station on Wednesday, April 27, the four erring cops were still at their posts.

The IAS has not suspended and relieved them a month after the administrative case was filed in their office.

The inaction by IAS on the four erring Mendez cops seems to give credence to a US State Department report that the Philippine National Police condones abuses committed by its members.

“Human rights groups continued to express concern about the abuses committed by the national police and other security forces and noted little progress in reforms aimed at improving investigations and prosecutions of suspected human rights violations,” said the US State Department report.

Based on our experience at Isumbong, administrative cases filed by aggrieved citizens against policemen take so long that the complainants lose interest in pursuing their complaints.

“Due process” is a favorite phrase used to justify the delay in the resolution of administrative cases against respondent policemen. Some cases take months and even years to be resolved.

In the April 21 Sentinel column, I showed an example of blatant delay in resolving the administrative case – which Isumbong helped file – against a Pasig policeman who was dismissed from the service 12 years after the case was filed.

The cop shot dead a fellow customer inside a karaoke joint. They were quarreling over a microphone.

By the time the case was resolved, the policeman had already died of cancer and so could no longer serve his punishment.

And you know what? A Pasig court was still hearing the dead policeman’s homicide case!

PLANTING

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