THE two policemen who were accused of deliberately killing a 22-year-old drug suspect maintained their innocence even as they reacted differently to the murder complaint filed against them by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) before the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas.
PO2 Arnold Cabildo, who is assigned at the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), said he was disappointed upon learning about the case.
“Maka-low morale. Igo ra man mi nagbuhat sa among trabaho. (It affected my morale. We were just doing our job),” he told reporters in a brief interview.
Cabildo maintained their operation against the slain drug suspect, Jerald Cedeño, in Barangay Tisa, Cebu City, last July 23 was legitimate.
“Mao ni ang unang kaso nga akong giatubang (This is the first case I have faced),” he said.
While Cabildo was bothered by the case, his collague, SPO2 Renante Nioda, team leader of the CCPO’s Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat), was not fazed by the accusations.
Nioda, in a phone interview, said the case filed against him encouraged him to be more aggressive in going after drug suspects, adding the allegations were fabricated and meant to put him down.
“Normal na sa mga badlongon nga usbon ang istorya. Ang tinuod ra gyud aning mga tawhana mao lang ilang ngalan og apelyido. (It’s normal for criminals to fabricate stories. The only thing true about these people are their names and family names),” Nioda told CDN.
“Wala ni makapadismaya nako. Mas na-encouraged hinon ko pagbuhat sa akong trabaho. (I (I am not dismayed by this case. Instead, it encouraged me to continue doing my work),” he added.
The CHR in Central Visayas (CHR-7) recently found sufficient basis to file a murder complaint against Nioda and Cabildo before the Office of the Ombudsman over the death of Jerald.
It was the first case of an alleged extrajudicial killing in Cebu to be elevated by CHR-7 to the Office of the Ombudsman, said CHR-7 chief investigator Leo Villarino.
The victim’s mother, Patricia Cedeño, and grandmother Nicolasa Inesola executed separate sworn statements against the two policemen and requested Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente to hold the two respondents liable for murder and grave misconduct.
At around 6 p.m. on July 23, Nioda and Cabildo allegedly went to Patricia’s residence in Barangay Tisa and angrily looked for Cedeño’s son Jerald. The young man was then taking a bath and was forced to go out of the bathroom wearing his short pants.
Patricia said Nioda, their former neighbor, searched Jerald’s bedroom even without a warrant from the court while Cabildo repeatedly flicked the earlobe of her son.
She said the two policemen were looking for a gun but couldn’t find one.
Although the search yielded no firearm, Patricia said the two policemen still held Jerald’s arms and brought him outside the house.
Jerald’s grandmother Nicolasa, 74, said she quickly got her cane and tried to catch up. But the policemen were too quick for her. In just about a minute, she heard bursts of gunfire.
She kept walking until she saw Jerald lying face down on the ground.
While waiting for Scene of the Crime Operatives (Soco) to arrive, Nicolasa and Patricia said they saw Nioda and Cabildo put a gun at the right side of Cedeño’s body and a small plastic sachet on the left.
Based on the autopsy report released by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Cedeño suffered two gunshot wounds on the chest and his left shoulder. He also had abrasions on the forehead, nose and upper lip. Cedeño, who would have turned 23 years old yesterday, also lost a tooth.
Nioda said they never went to Cedeño’s house on the day the latter was killed. He said he received a call regarding the presence of an armed person in Barangay Tisa, prompting him to call Cabildo as his backup.
When they arrived in the area, Nioda said they found Cedeño outside brandishing a gun. He said he confronted Cedeño, but the latter allegedly fired shots at them, prompting him and Cabildo to fire back.
Nioda said Cedeño had threatened a lot of residents in the place after the man was accused of stealing a chicken.
Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, the director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), likewise maintained that Jerald was killed in a legitimate police operation.
“We fully support them. Any policeman who do their job should not be afraid or get discouraged. The national government, the chief PNP and the regional police is here to support policemen who get sued for doing their work, especially in our campaign against illegal drugs,” he said.
Taliño said policemen need not worry about lawsuits from people claiming to be victims of police brutality and abuse since PRO-7 has a legal team composed of retired justices, judges, government prosecutors and private law practitioners who recently bonded together to defend policemen slapped with charges while in the performance of their official duties.
The PRO-7 director, however, clarified that he opposed extrajudicial killings.
“We don’t tolerate extrajudicial killings. In fact, we’re investigating these things,” he said.
Senior Supt. Joel Doria, CCPO director, said policemen never wanted to kill drug suspects.
“Our aim is to arrest them. We don’t want them to die because we could get many informations (sic) from them if they are alive,” he said.
“But if they want to shoot it out with the police, then our operatives won’t have any other choice but to shoot back,” he added.