By Erma Edera
A drug suspect who pretended to be dead during a shootout in a police anti-drug operation was acquitted by a Manila court.
Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 40 Judge Alfredo Ampuan said that she was unconvinced of the police’s story that Francisco Maneja Jr., 28, a tricycle driver, was wounded in a buy-bust operation on Sept. 13, 2016.
Police had accused Maneja of fighting back to resist arrest in a supposed buy-bust operation in Malate two years ago, when he was also charged with violating R.A. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) at the City Prosecutor’s Office on 2016.
“If the accused indeed suspected that PO1 Gonzales was a police officer, and such suspicion prompted the accused to push him out of the tricycle, the accused and his companion would have ran away and would not have stepped out of the tricycle, fully aware that PO1 Gonzales might have had a back-up,” decision showed.
The judge questioned the documents involved in the purported operation and the police’s procedure, saying the evidence was marked in the hospital instead of at the crime scene, in the presence of reporters who could have served as witnesses.
However, the two cops insisted to proceed to the hospital to conduct the marking and inventory in the presence of other police officers and journalists.
“The police officers offered no justifiable reason why they needed to wait for their contact media personnel when they were already present [in the crime scene]. It would have been more credible if the marking and inventory were done in the crime scene immediately after the incident,” the judge added.
Maneja, the police claimed, fought back and was injured when police shot him.
The P500 marked money allegedly paid to Maneja was also not recovered.
On October 4, 2016, the accused pleaded not guilty to the offense charged.
Maneja’s version of events said he was taken from his tricycle queue and brought to the police precinct, beaten and coerced to reveal the addresses of two alleged drug pushers in Malate.
He was reportedly released from detention last August 7. However, the Manila Bulletin tried to find Maneja but was not found at his listed address.
‘Rise from the dead’
Maneja played dead and was thought to have been killed along with his cohort in a shootout with anti-narcotics operatives in Malate, Manila in 2016.
Police and media men covering the incident were startled when the bloodied Maneja who they thought was dead suddenly sat up, waved his hand and asked for help.
Maneja was one of the subjects of a buy-bust operation conducted by the anti-illegal drugs unit of MPD Police Station 9 (PS-9)
Malate Police chief Supt. Romeo Mendoza Odrada said Maneja and his cohort, George Huggins, 45, arrived at Roxas Boulevard service road behind the Aristocrat Restaurant on board a tricycle (5543 HV) at around 12:20 a.m. to meet PO1 Orlando Gonzales who posed as a shabu buyer.
Maneja asked PO1 Gonzales to board the tricycle because they would make the drug deal somewhere else. The cop followed his instruction.
While they were traversing the service road, PO1 Gonzales handed P1,500 to Maneja for a sachet of shabu.
However, after stopping on Aldecoa Street, Maneja realized he was dealing with an undercover cop whom he pushed out of the tricycle.
Huggins, who was driving the tricycle, alighted and started firing at Gonzales who retaliated, killing Huggins on the spot.
Meanwhile, Maneja got out of the tricycle to confront Gonzales, but got hit by back-up operatives.
More police arrived at the crime scene around 1:30 a.m. as well as mediamen.
Ten minutes later, Maneja slowly rose up from the pavement and asked for help.
Investigator PO3 Marlon San Pedro of MPD homicide section said that policemen rushed Maneja to the Ospital ng Maynila where he is now recuperating from gunshot wounds in the shoulder, hands and feet.
Police recovered three sachets of suspected shabu, a .38-caliber Square Bingham revolver and a .22-caliber Blackwidow revolver with live ammunition, and the marked money used in the entrapment.