EDITORIAL - Slap on the wrist

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Slap on the wrist

On Aug. 2 last year, 17-year-old Jerhode “Jemboy” Baltazar was chased by a police team in Navotas and then shot dead. Why? The policemen later admitted that they mistook Baltazar for a murder suspect they were pursuing. But they could not explain why they shot to kill instead of disabling the unarmed teenager. Baltazar was repairing a fishing boat with a friend, and fell into the water when he was shot.

The policemen left the wounded teen in the water instead of rushing him to a hospital. It took several hours before Baltazar was fished out of Manila Bay, by which time he was dead. He had two gunshot wounds. Clearly there was no intent on the part of the police team to save him. As Baltazar’s bereaved mother lamented yesterday following the court ruling, her son was shot like a dog.

Yet Judge Pedro Dabu Jr. of the Navotas Regional Trial Court’s Branch 286 lowered the murder charge against the six policemen to homicide, convicted only one and ordered the release of four others because their four-month sentence for illegal discharge of firearm was deemed to have been served during their detention while on trial.Staff Sgt. Gerry Maliban was sentenced to no more than six years in prison for homicide. A sixth policeman was acquitted.

The murder charge was lowered to homicide reportedly because the policemen were merely performing their duty. If shooting to kill is the regular way members of the Philippine National Police perform their duty, the country is in deep trouble. And it’s little wonder that egregious abuses were committed by PNP members in the conduct of the war on drugs during the administration of Rodrigo Duterte.

At least the Department of Justice sees Baltazar’s case differently. The DOJ has vowed to “exhaust all legal remedies” to secure a murder conviction, arguing that certain elements were ignored in the court ruling, including reasonableness of the police action, conspiracy and intent to kill. The case is expected to be elevated to the Court of Appeals.

A police official said the case would serve as a warning to PNP members to follow guidelines in pursuing suspects and neutralizing threats. In fact the opposite could happen as a result of the slap on the wrist for the killing of an innocent teenager. The decision of the Navotas court rewards shooting first – even shooting to kill – and asking questions later.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with