Amid shift in drug war strategy, PNP welcomes conviction of cop in UP stude Carl Arnaiz death

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has welcomed the conviction of a policeman for torture and planting of evidence in connection with the deaths of Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo De Guzman in August 2017.

PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin, Jr. issued the statement amid the shift of strategies in the campaign against illegal drugs under the Marcos administration following what critics described as a bad image of the national police force due to the bloody drug war in the past six years.

PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin, Jr.

Judge Rodrigo F. Pascua Jr. of Caloocan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 122 found former Police Officer 1 Jefrey Perez guilty on the cases relating to the violation of Anti-Torture Act of 2019 and planting of evidence in relations to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Perez was sentenced to suffer reclusion perpetua for the torture of then 14-year-old Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman, and imprisonment “of six months to four years and two two months for the torture of UP student Carl Angelo M. Arnaiz, who, at the time of his death, was 19 years old.

For planting of evidence, Perez was sentenced to two life imprisonments in addition to absolute perpetual disqualification from any public office.

Perez was also ordered to pay to the heirs of each of the victims P1 million moral damages and P1 million exemplary damages with an interest rate of six percent per annum from the date of the finality of decision until fully paid.

"The Philippine National Police remains steadfast in our sworn duty to uphold and respect human rights in all aspects of police operations in fighting criminality," said Azurin in a statement released on Thursday, Nov. 23.

"The decision was a result of a fair full-blown trial hence, we believe that the accused was given his day in court to present his side. Nevertheless, any acts committed by erring personnel does not reflect the views of the whole PNP organization. The PNP has always maintained its stance to uphold the rule of law in all its undertakings," he added.

What happened

Case records showed that Arnaiz and De Guzman were last seen together on Aug. 18, 2017 in their neighborhood in Cainta, Rizal. They ended up dead later.

Perez and his co-accused former Police Officer 1 Ricky E. Arquilita claimed Arnaiz was armed with a firearm and died in a gunfight while fleeing on Aug. 18, 2017 in Caloocan City after having allegedly attempted to rob a taxi.

De Guzman’s body, on the other hand, was found on Sept. 5, 2017 in a creek in Kinabayuhan in Gapan City with a packing tape wrapped around his head and his body bearing around 30 stab wounds.

The decision stated that seven charges, including murder, were filed against the two policemen on Jan. 19, 2018 but the prosecution, on April 12, 2018, withdrew the murder charges which was granted by the court.

Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said the cases of Arnaiz and De Guzman were among the first torture cases filed by her office with the Department of Justice (DOJ) during the administration of then President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Perez was dismissed from the service on October 4, 2018. This has been a manifestation that the PNP does not tolerate wrongdoings committed within its own ranks and is fully committed in the implementation of its internal cleansing program.

The case against Arquilita was junked after his death on April 22, 2019.

Life is Beautiful

Since his assumption to the top police post in August this year, Azurin has been very vocal on the need to recalibrate the drug war that focuses on upholding human rights and proper police and legal procedures.

Under the banner of Life is Beautiful slogan, Azurin insisted that inflicting harm on drug suspects must be a last resort as he stressed the need for drug personalities, particularly those who have been addicted to illegal drugs use, for a second chance.

In one of the interviews in response to the criticism of former PNP chief and now Sen. Ronald dela Rosa over weak perception of the PNP on drug war, Azurin was quoted saying that the PNP now values the preservation of life.

Recently, the PNP also released a statement saying that more than 654,000 drug dependents who surrendered to the government at the height of the drug war already graduated from the rehabilitation program.

The shift in drug war strategy came amid allegations of blatant violations of human rights and extra-judicial killings, with PNP members on the ground being placed in a bad situation as in the case of over 100 cops who were charged for human rights violations in connection with the drug war.

"At present, the PNP oath to shift its strategy on anti-crime and illegal drug campaigns. We aim to utilize a more holistic approach in combating crimes which would involve the church and the community," said Azurin.

Auzrin, however, said they cannot promise a zero casualty in its police operations as he insisted that the safety of our personnel is also a priority.

"They (policemen) need to defend themselves when attacked or the life of innocent civilians are on the line but with the strict observance of human rights at all times," said Azurin.

"We are keen on observing different approaches on our anti-crime campaign to minimize, if not avoid, armed confrontations in our police operations," he added.