JUDGE: Kian's death due to PNP's shoot first, think later style

"By their decisions on certain critical cases, Regional Trial Court Judges Rodolfo Azucena Jr., Arlene Lirag Palabrica, Andres Soriano and Alexander Tamayo have fired up the despondent imagination and provided leeway for the public to think that things can possibly get better, that there might be a way out of this slough."

SOURCE: Inquirer (2018). Judges who gave hope in the fight against impunity. Philippine Daily Inquirer. January 6, 2019 at 7.30AM. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1069898/judges-who-gave-hope-in-the-fight-against-impunity.

This is a part of the Inquirer's write-up on judges "who gave hope in the fight against impunity". Said article which can be found online as cited above talks about three judges: Arlene Lirag Palabrica, Alexander Tamayo, Rodolfo Azucena Jr., and Andres Soriano. This post focuses on Judge Azucena, Jr.

Before reading the quoted part of the article below, it is important to remember Kian delos Santos. More specifically, what should be recalled is the police shooting that resulted in his death.

On the evening of August 16, 2017, a 17-year-old Filipino student named Kian Loyd delos Santos was fatally shot by police officers conducting an anti-drug operation in Caloocan, Metro Manila. As expected, the version of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the witnesses are not the same.

According to the official police report, at around 8:45 p.m, Delos Santos tried to flee when he noticed the police officers approaching him. He then drew his gun and "directly shot" towards the police, which prompted PO3 Arnel Oares to fire back in self-defense, killing Delos Santos. The pistol, cartridges, and two sachets of methamphetamine were then found in Delos Santos's possession.

On the other hand, witnesses claim that Delos Santos was just loitering near his house at around 8:00 p.m., when two unidentified men grabbed him and led him away. The barangay's CCTV footage of the incident shows that at 8:24 p.m., a young man believed to be Delos Santos was being dragged by two men in plainclothes towards the area where his corpse would be later found. The video also showed a third man that headed towards the same direction.

SOURCE: Shooting of Kian delos Santos From. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Kian_delos_Santos

[QUOTED FROM THE INQUIRER] The terrible toll of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs appeared to have gradually lost its capacity to shock, but the killing of Kian delos Santos at Barangay 160, Libis Baesa, Caloocan City, on the night of Aug. 16, 2017, along with the killing of other youngsters at about the same time, provided a jolt that soon morphed into clangorous protest.
The usual “nanlaban” narrative of perp resistance — that the 17-year-old was a drug courier who had engaged police raiders in a shootout — did not gel; rather, the resulting public outcry over the manner of Kian’s death moved Malacañang to soften its hard-line approach and to (temporarily) take the Philippine National Police off its lead role in the antidrug campaign.

On Nov. 29, 2018, Caloocan RTC Branch 125 Presiding Judge Rodolfo Azucena Jr. sentenced PO3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jerwin Cruz and PO1 Jeremias Pereda to up to 40 years behind bars, with no possibility of parole, for killing Delos Santos. The trial took six months — a rarity in a country where court cases drag on for years.

From eyewitness accounts and other evidence presented at the trial, Azucena pieced together the circumstances behind the murder of the young man who, it was reported, had poignantly begged the cops to release him because he had an exam the next day to study for:

With a police “asset,” Oares and Pereda accost Kian at a “sari-sari” store cum pharmacy. Cruz appears and asks where they are taking the teenager. Their answer is ominous, stating an intent to do him in: Ibaba na lang natin ito.

They drag Kian toward the basketball court. They stop at the dark end of the Tullahan River. After a short conversation, in which Kian begs his tormentors to stop — Sir, huwag po, sir — they drag him near the pigpen. Shots are fired by Oares and Pereda, with Cruz standing guard.

Kian had two gunshot wounds, “fracturing his skull and temporal bone and lacerating the cerebral hemispheres as well as the cerebellum.”

The trajectory of the bullets showed that the killers were standing over Kian, who was in a kneeling or sitting position. A paraffin examination administered on the teenager’s hands showed that he had not fired any gun.

Wrote the judge in his decision: “The court commiserates with our policemen who regularly thrust their lives in zones of danger in order to maintain peace and order, and acknowledges the apprehension faced by their families whenever they go on duty. But the use of unnecessary force or wanton violence is not justified when the fulfillment of their duty as law enforcers can [be] effected otherwise. A shoot first, think later attitude can never be countenanced in a civilized society. Never has homicide or murder been a function of law enforcement. The public peace is never predicated on the cost of human life.”

Azucena’s ruling is the first conviction in the war on drugs — proof positive, according to some quarters, that extrajudicial killings by agents of the state are marking the campaign.

It engenders hope among bereaved families and rights activists that other law enforcers and state agents involved in such murders will ultimately be held accountable despite the apparent mantle of immunity draped on them as primary fighters in the “war.” [END OF QUOTE]