By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
Controversy still hounds members of the Caloocan City Police as several cops were relieved from their posts recently for their involvement in the killing of a shirtless man during an operation.
The 32-year-old Mario Balagtas and two other men were outside a hardware store when Caloocan lawmen accosted them for being shirtless in public. Balagtas ran to his rented room about 30 meters away while his companions fled on a motorcycle. The cops knocked on Balagtas’s door but they were met with gunfire, forcing them to shoot back.
A witness, however, had an all-too-different version of the incident. He said Balagtas was already surrendering and begging for his life when he cops shot him dead.
Director Oscar Albayalde, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief, said he already instructed Senior Superintendent Jemar Modequillo, Caloocan City Police chief, to probe the killing.
This is the first death under Oplan Galugad since the previous Caloocan police chief, Senior Supt. Chito Bersaluna, was relieved for the controversial deaths of teenaged suspects during operations.
Observers noted that this could be another Kian delos Santos case. The police claimed that Delos Santos, a 17-year-old grade 11 student, was a drug courier who resisted arrest and started shooting at them, forcing them to retaliate in self-defense.
However, forensic investigation showed that Kian was on the ground when he suffered a gunshot wound to his back, to the back of his left ear and one inside his left ear from the gunman who was standing up.
This also brings to mind the case of 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz who was killed by the police after allegedly attempting to rob taxi driver Tomas Bagcal in Caloocan.
The cab driver himself said that after Arnaiz tried to rob him, he took the young man to the police through the help of some barangay tanod.
Two witnesses revealed in a Senate inquiry that they saw Arnaiz already on his knees when policemen shot him.
A probe by the Public Attorneys’ Office (PAO) revealed that Arnaiz was tortured, handcuffed and unable to fight back when he was shot five times.
Firing Line has always been on the side of law and justice. A suspect should be apprehended and punished if he committed a crime. This becomes a different matter if a victim was tortured and killed by cops who were supposed to uphold the law and protect the citizens.
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