Grieving poet-mother gets sliver of victory as Ombudsman orders dismissal of 'tokhang cop'

Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 03 2019 05:28 PM

MANILA -- Ombudsman Samuel Martires has approved the dismissal from office and the filing of murder charges against a police officer accused of executing an epileptic youth on May 18, 2017.

Martires approved on February 28 the filing of a murder case against Police Officer 3 Gerry Geñalope of the Manila Police District Station 7 in Tondo. He also ordered Geñalope’s dismissal, forfeiture of all benefits, and perpetual disqualification from public service for gross misconduct.

The case was filed by Normita B Lopez, mother of Djastin, then 23, who was shot dead begging for his life along the railway tracks of Pilar, Tondo.

Ombudsman Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Maria Christina G Cudiamat-Reyes submitted her report on August 13, 2018. Dennis Garcia, acting Assistant Ombudsman for military and other law enforcement offices (MOLEO), and Cyril E Ramos, the MOLEO deputy ombudsman, later approved her findings.

Lopez received the document only on March 29, a few hours before she performed in “Sa Digma ng Halimaw” on its third and final day at the De La Salle - College of St Benilde. She was so choked with emotion that she fainted during the curtail call.

In the play-documentary, Lopez performs a monologue lifted right from the pages of a notebook filled with what she calls “a running conversation” with Djastin.

She took to poetry to cope with the death of her son. Her first poem, written on her mobile phone in under an hour, ends with a cry of hope: “Bago pa man lang pumikit ang aking mga mata, sana mabigyan na ng hustisya ang iyong pagkamatay, akin anak.” 

(Before my eyes close in this life, may your killers be brought to justice, my child.)

JUST A STEP 

Lopez told ABS-CBN News emissaries from the police have gotten in touch with her husband, Lito, since the decision came out.

"I told him, tell them there is nothing to talk about. We will see each other in court," she said.

"You do not bargain over a murdered son," Lopez added.

Her counsel, Kristina Conti, secretary-general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in the Philippines – National Capital Region chapter (NUPL-NCR), said the Ombudsman order was a vindication.

"All 'nanlaban' cases during police operations are crimes that need to be brought to court. Self-defense is a legal argument and police must convince the court, not just the public, that they were justified in their actions," she said. 

"Nanay Normita’s case is but a small crack in tokhang impunity; it will take so much more to break it," Conti told ABS-CBN News.

TREACHERY

Geñalope is not the only accused, but he is the only one who admits to having shot Djastin. 

Witnesses said he shot Djastin while the youth begged for his life, slapped him while he writhed on the ground with the onset of an epileptic attack, and then shot him again repeatedly. 

Witnesses also claimed other police officers also shot at Djastin. 

The Ombudsman dismissed the charges against then Police Senior Inspector Jojo Callo Salanguit and other unnamed officers, saying the complainant had failed to substantiate her allegations and identify the suspects. 

But it ordered the agency’s field office to conduct a fact-finding investigation.

The dismissal, the order stressed, was not prejudicial to future reopening of the case against other officers.

Geñalope "clearly perpetrated said acts with treachery … consciously and deliberately employed said attack to ensure the execution of the crime and make it impossible for Djastin to defend himself or retaliate," said the findings.

"His allegations that it was Djastin that first fired at him and that he merely acted in self defense are matters that can be best passed upon after full-blown trial on the merits."

It also found substantial evidence for grave misconduct, citing "additional elements of willful intent to violate the law and to disregard established rules, thus, warranting his dismissal from the service," the order said.

The order for a fact-finding investigation said, “… the office cannot gloss over inconsistencies pointed out by complainant in the spot report and progress report." 

It noted that the police could not provide supporting documents to prove they were in the area to conduct a buy-bust operation or a follow-up operation. It also said the police withheld the names of all others involved in the operation.

The Ombudsman said a fact-finding probe is needed to determine whom to hold accountable in the alleged planting of evidence

CHANNELING RAGE

"I don't want him (Geñalope) only dismissed. I want him behind bars," Lopez said. 

"Pero bawat sulyap ng liwanag, gaano man kanipis, ay dapat ipagbunyi, sabi ko nga sa mga estudyanteng nanonood." 

(But I told the students during the play, every ray of light that pierces through the gloom is cause for rejoicing.)

Lopez still talks nightly with her son, hoping for a small whisper from beyond the grave. And she still writes poems.

"Until when will we be cloaked by fear? Until when will we wait till we can once more breathe in freedom, until we shake off the terror that fills even our sleep?” says another of her poems, all written in Filipino.

"Simula pa lang ito ng susunod na kabanata ng laban namin. Ipagdasal nyong magtagumpay kami at mabigyan hustisya si Djastin," Lopez said. 

(This is just the start of the next chapter in our fight. Please pray that we win justice for Djastin.)

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.