Second “war on drugs” conviction

After five years, the Regional Trial Court Branch 122 in Caloocan City convicted patrolman Jefrey Perez for torturing 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz and 14-year-old Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman in 2017. Aside from life imprisonment on two occasions, the court ordered on November 23, 2022, a removal from office and a fine of over two million pesos for each of the respective teens’ families to compensate for the damages. The second accused police officer, Rocky Arquilita, died of suspected hepatitis in prison in 2019.

Both teenagers died after being tortured. Arnaiz died in an alleged shootout with the convicted police officers. He was accused of allegedly robbing a cab driver. However, an autopsy revealed that Arnaiz had been handcuffed, beaten up, and then killed. The cab driver confirmed that he had been forced by the police to provide a false affidavit. The court declared true the planting of firearms with ammunitions and drugs by the police officers at Arnaiz. Guzman was found dead weeks after Arnaiz’s death about 100 km away from the scene. Murder charges remain undecided in the two cases.

“This is a warning to all law enforcers to not use excessive force against civilians,” said Persida Acosta, head of the prosecutor’s office who is handling the case. Opposition senator, Risa Hontiveros, stressed that the conviction showed that “torture, planted evidence, and false police reports have no place in our national police force.” She also pleaded for full accountability of state violence, stating it was the only way “the public can once again trust the institutions meant to protect them.”

The Philippine Commission on Human Rights also acknowledged the prosecution’s 36-page decision. The Philippine National Police underlined its respect for the court’s decision. Amnesty International Philippines, however, called the conviction “only a drop in a bucket.”

The conviction in the case of Arnaiz and de Guzman is the second in the so-called “war on drugs” after the conviction in the case of the extrajudicial killing of 17-year old Kian delos Santos in 2017 in Caloocan.

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