By Elizabeth Marcelo, April 5 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — For the first time, the Office of the Ombudsman has ruled on one of several complaints pending before it in connection with the Philippine National Police’s Oplan Tokhang anti-illegal drug operations.

In a 10-page joint resolution released yesterday, the ombudsman found probable cause to file murder charges against Staff Sgt. Gerry Geñalope of the Manila Police District (MPD) Station 7 in connection with the killing of an epileptic man in Tondo, Manila during an operation in 2017.

The ombudsman also ordered Geñalope dismissed from service and charged with grave misconduct.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Palace welcomes the move as President Duterte “says his administration will not tolerate abuse on the part of police officers, as there will be hell to pay.”

In the same resolution, the ombudsman also ordered Geñalope’s retirement benefits forfeited and barred him from government service.

The ombudsman’s ruling stemmed from a complaint filed by Normita Lopez, the mother of Djastin Lopez, a 23-year-old epileptic who was killed during an operation of the MPD Station 7 on May 18, 2017.

Normita, in a complaint filed with the ombudsman in September 2017, said her son was hanging out with friends at the Hermosa-Pilar railroad tracks when police officers accosted everyone in the area.

Normita said Djastin had a seizure in the middle of the operation but instead of helping him, a policeman slapped him, pushed him to the ground and shot him several times as recounted by several witnesses.

Normita said the witnesses testified that the firearm, ammunition and shabu found on her son’s person were planted by the police officers.

In its resolution, the ombudsman noted that Geñalope had already admitted that he was the one who shot Djastin, supposedly as an act of self-defense, and this claim is “best passed upon after a full-blown trial.”

The ombudsman gave weight to the testimonies of at least two witnesses who said they saw Djastin was “defenseless” as he lay on the ground, pleading and raising his hands as a sign of surrender when Geñalope shot him as an act of “treachery.”

Further investigation

The ombudsman junked the complaint against Capt. Jojo Salanguit and three other unidentified persons who allegedly took part in the operation due to insufficient evidence.

The ombudsman, however, ordered its Field Investigation Bureau to conduct a fact-finding investigation on the May 18, 2017 incident to determine whether it was really part of a legitimate police operation “what violations were committed, if any, and who are the personalities involved.”

The resolution was prepared by ombudsman graft investigation and prosecution officer Maria Crisanta Cudiamat-Reyes on Aug. 13, 2018 but was approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires only on Feb. 28.

Djastin’s death was among the extra-judicial killings in connection with the administation’s drug war, cited in a complaint filed by the relatives of the victims against President Duterte before the International Criminal Court in August last year.   – With Christina Mendez