The contradicting statements of two barangay tanods (village watchmen) on circumstances leading to the death of their prisoner have led the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Homicide Section to believe that alleged burglar, Lendon Abadinas, was purposely killed after he was illegally detained by tanods at the village hall.
Police filed a murder complaint against tanods Junniel Sanchez and Jerome Miral at the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday; while a separate case for illegal possession of firearms was filed against Sanchez.
“If they committed a wrongdoing, they have to answer for it,” said Senior Supt. Joel Doria, director of the Cebu City Police Office.
Cebu City Police Office Homicide Section investigator SPO1 Winston Ybañez said that the cases were filed after strong evidence was gathered against Sanchez and Miral, who, he said, were obviously making up stories even amid the clear testimonies of eyewitnesses.
“Unsa man ilang itug-an nga namakak man sila dili mao ilang record. Nagbuhat-buhat sila og record (What’s there to confess when their lies contradict the record. They are making their own records),” Ybañez said.
With his hands handcuffed and his mouth gagged with tape, Abadinas, 36, was escorted by at least three barangay tanods out of the Ermita Barangay Hall’s detention cell to the nearby Carbon Police Station when he was shot dead on Tuesday, just five steps from the village hall.
He sustained a gunshot wound on his chest.
Ybañez said that during the police investigation that followed, Sanchez and Miral gave contrasting statements on why Abadinas was arrested by tanods.
While Miral said Abadinas was arrested for possession of a steel pipe, Sanchez, on the other hand, said Abadinas was arrested for burglary.
Sanchez and Miral also refused to cooperate with police investigators when asked who Abadinas’ supposed robbery victim was.
“Nangutana mi kinsa ang biktima nga gikawatan di sila motug-an. Ilang pagdakop di mao sa unsa nakabutang sa record (We asked them who Abadinas’ victimized when he stole, but they refused to say anything. The circumstances of the arrest as relayed by the two tanods are also not the same as those put on record),” Ybañez said.
Police believe that evidence was strong against Miral and Sanchez as they had found witnesses to the crime.
Investigators said that at least two detainees of the barangay detention facility saw a tanod pull out Abadinas from detention at dawn, handcuffed the alleged burglar, and then gagged his mouth with a tape.
A witness also saw how Miral mauled Abadinas and dragged the latter outside the barangay hall, police said.
Soon after, Abadinas was heard screaming “Ayaw, sir. Ayaw, sir. Dili ko mosukol (Don’t, sir. Don’t, sir. I will not fight),” while two shots rang out.
Although he was grimacing in pain, Abadinas still managed to run and seek assistance from the Carbon Police Station, about a hundred meters from the hall. He was declared dead on arrival at the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) where he was rushed by Carbon police operatives.
Sanchez insisted he shot Abadinas out of self-defense after the alleged burglar tried to grab his gun which was tucked in his waist.
The incident happened six hours after Abadinas’ arrest for supposed burglary.
Police Regional Office director (PRO-7) Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino said that while village watchmen serve as “force multipliers,” they cannot be allowed to act as police officers detaining arrested persons for several hours.
Espino said that while tanods can make a citizen’s arrest, they are bound to immediately turn over the arrested person to a police station.
“Protocol yan na dapat turn over agad. We asked them to follow the procedures,” said Espino.
The Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7) said that while temporary holding areas in barangay halls are allowed, the law states that persons arrested by barangay tanods should be turned over to the police “within a reasonable time.”
CHR-7 Director Arvin Odron has ordered a probe on Abadinas’ death.
“The best thing they could have done was to immediately turn over the victim to the police,” said Odron.
As of yesterday, no family member has surfaced to claim the remains of Abadinas at the St. Francis of Assisi Funeral Homes in N. Bacalso Avenue, Cebu City, leading police investigators to speculate that even Abadinas’ name may have been fabricated by the tanods. with Ador Vincent S. Mayol