EDITORIAL — A warning to trigger-happy cops

The Freeman
EDITORIAL � A warning to trigger-happy cops

There is a development in the case of Jerhode “Jemboy” Baltazar; one policeman has been convicted for killing him while four others were convicted of lesser crimes related to his killing.

In case you no longer remember Baltazar, he was the teenager who was shot dead by policemen in Navotas City last August 2 after they were convinced he was the criminal they were hotly pursuing.

Baltazar, who was fishing at the time, dove into the water after getting scared at seeing several armed men. The policemen fired into the water and ended up killing him.

While a total of six policemen were charged for murder in the crime, only Police Staff Sergeant Gerry Maliban was convicted of homicide by the Navotas Regional Trial Court Branch 286.

Police Executive Master Sergeant Roberto Balais Jr., Police Staff Sergeant Nikko Esquilon, Police Corporal Edmard Jade Blanco, and Patrolman Benedict Mangada received four-month prison terms each for illegal discharge of firearms, while Police Staff Sergeant Antonio Bugayong was acquitted.

The family of the victim said it would have been better if the murder charge had stuck for all six policemen, but the court ruled on homicide for Maliban after saying “the urge to shoot the victim materialized only when the victim attempted to escape.”

Still, this should serve as a warning for policemen not to shoot first and ask questions later. Or better yet, not to shoot when shooting isn’t required at all.

Even if Baltazar had been the suspect they were pursuing and he had jumped into the water to get away from them, was firing into the water really the right course of action? Did they feel so threatened by someone in the water that they decided that opening fire was the right response?

Of course, there are still other cases involving policemen who are too fast to draw the gun and pull the trigger, but at least this one got a semblance of justice.

This isn’t to disparage the entire police force. We are aware of many incidents that ended up with the perpetrator safely arrested and awaiting prosecution. However, examples must be made of policemen who immediately like to send the lead flying.

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