Child witness identifies cops, but not Tiu; Why do Fuente police shave heads of girls?
By next week, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will be ready to file murder charges against several policemen for the death of street child Chastity Mirabiles, who was detained for several hours on Easter Sunday at the Fuente police station in Cebu City.
Officials said the victim’s companion, an 11-year-old street child, who was picked up with Chastity, was able to identify the policeman who mauled both of them, as well as other policemen who were present.
The witness, who is under the protection of social workers, was shown photos of Fuente policemen and interviewed during a three-hour closed-door inquiry in the NBI 7 office last April 29.
NBI 7 Assistant Director Augusto Isidoro yesterday said the child did not identify Chief Inspector Wildemar Tiu.
“Based sa account ng witness, hindi siya (Tiu) ang bumugbog sa bata (Chastity). Based on the account of the witness, Tiu was not the one who mauled Chastity),” Isidoro told CDN.
Isidoro clarified that Chief Inspector Wildemar Tiu isn’t off the hook yet though.
“We have the principle of chain of command. He could still be liable,” said the NBI official.
Isidoro said murder charges in relation to Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act are set to be filed against the concerned policemen probably next week.
“We already sent them (respondents) a subpoena so they have the opportunity to answer the allegations leveled against them. I don’t know if they will come to the NBI (to clear their names),” he said.
An NBI autopsy showed that Chastity died from injuries caused by blunt force trauma in the chest and other parts of the body.
Tiu is expected to return in the first week of June from a vacation in the United States. He went ahead with a month-long leave after Cebu city social workers raised accusations of police brutality in the handling of minors by the Fuente police.
No sanctions have been made on the 15 Fuente station policemen on duty on April 5, Easter Sunday, including Tiu.
Amid fears that the street child’s death would be covered up, Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella said an agreement was reached to let the NBI lead the investigation.
An OIC was installed in the Fuente Station, Chief Insp. Davide Senor.
Chief Supt. Prudencio “Tom” Bañas, Central Visayas police director, yesterday said Tiu will be given a chance to answer the allegations when he returns as part of due process.
Three different cases, aside from Chastity’s death, were raised by social workers of Cebu city.
Police said they found basis only for Tiu to answer one case — why three other girls detained the next day, April 6, had their heads forcibly shaved at the police station.
“We found probably cause to recommend a pre-charge investigation on the shaving of the heads of the minors, unlike the other accusations that were brought up,” said Chief Insp. Aileen Recla, chief of the City Investigation and Detective
Chastity and other street children were rounded up as part of Operation Libod-Suroy, a police program intended to “rescue” children from the streets.
However, Fuente police have been picking up minors without the presence of social workers, a violation of protocol with anti-mendicancy authorities of Cebu City and the social welfare agency.
The 11-year-old witness remains under the custody of the social workers, said Dr. Ester Concha, head of the Department of Social Welfare and Services in Cebu City.
“So far, she’s okay. Her parents visit her once in a while,” Concha told CDN.
Concha, along with Insp. Arieza Otida, chief of the Women and Children’s Protection Desk of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO); and a representative of the Commission on Human Rights, accompanied the child witness at the NBI 7 office.
But only NBI Agent Donaver Inesin, a lawyer, was allowed to ask questions in order not to confuse the witness during the inquiry that lasted for three hours.
Concha said they already asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to place the girl under the Witness Protection Program.
She said they are also thinking of ways to help the family of Chastity, whose mother has a physical disability and no means of livelihood.
“Last month, we facilitated the release of her family’s pedicab from the Cebu City Market Operations Division (MOD),” Concha said.
The father’s pedicab, which was given by a priest to Chastity’s family, was impounded for a traffic violation.
After losing their means of livelihood, Chastity’s mother said she and the girl decided to beg along the streets of uptown Cebu City.