3 brothers released from jail shot dead in police operation
‘JUSTICE ON WHEELS’
Three days after their release from the Mandaue City Jail after the so-called wheels of justice turned in their favor, three brothers were killed in an alleged shootout with policemen inside the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) compound in Barangay Gizo, Mandaue City.
Jerome Umpad, 28, John Vincent Umpad, 26, and Ruben Umpad, 25, were shot dead by policemen after they allegedly engaged operatives in a gun fight during a buy-bust operation at the CICC, at past one o’clock dawn, yesterday.
Another brother, 23-year-old Rustom Umpad who, police said, did not have a gun, lived through the supposed gunfight but was later arrested for alleged possession of drug paraphernalia.
The four brothers were all temporarily staying in a shanty inside the run-down CICC compound, which had long become an evacuation center for dozens of Mandaue City fire victims.
Except for Rustom, Jerome, John Vincent, and Ruben had just been released from the Mandaue City Jail last Friday where the three were detained for eight years on charges of murder and direct assault.
The case stemmed from the killing of Willy Puno, a village watchman in Barangay Mantuyong, Mandaue City, last 2009. According to the case’s records, the three brothers attacked Puno with a knife and stabbed him multiple times after the barangay tanod reprimanded them for sniffing a solvent. Police said the three were also involved in several theft and robbery cases before they were finally arrested in 2009 for Puno’s murder.
“Justice on Wheels”
The three fatalities were released from jail after their case was dismissed by the Enhanced Justice on Wheels (EJOW) program of the Supreme Court (SC) which is a mobile-court bus traveling the country to literally deliver accessible justice to the local communities through judges, prosecutors, mediators, clerks and lawyers.
The SC program, launched in 2004 as part of the country’s judicial reforms, aims to decongest court dockets and jails through a speedier disposition of cases.
In the case of the three Umpad brothers, EJOW dismissed the murder charge against them for lack of witnesses coupled with the amount of time already spent by the suspects in jail while awaiting the resolution of their case, police said.
But right after the brothers’ release from jail, PCI Michael Angelo Beltran, Chief of Mandaue City Police Station 3, said that they received information that John Vincent was already into selling shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride).
A three-day surveillance was then launched which culminated in the buy-bust operation.
According to Beltran, using P300 marked money, police transacted with John Vincent at around 1 a.m., Monday. Upon sensing that he was dealing with a government agent, John Vincent yelled “Police! Police!” to alert his brothers as the suspect rushed to enter their shanty, added Beltran.
It was Jerome who reportedly fired at police operatives first but missed.
Beltran said they had no option but to shoot back as there were armed persons inside the hut.
“Legitimate operation to ang amoa, wala nalang mi nikompyansa dihang gipusil mi og una hangtud nga na-neutralize namo sila, pero diha’y usa nga dili armed, wala namo giapil (Ours was a legitimate operation. We just could not take our chances when one of them fired at us first until we neutralized them. But there was one who was not armed and so we did not include him), ” said Beltran.
Police said they recovered a .45 caliber pistol, .357 revolver, a .25 revolver, and five small sachets of shabu from the three siblings; while the younger Rustom, who police said was unarmed, was found only in possession of a drug paraphernalia.
Chance to reform
The siblings’ mother, 49-year-old Jean Umpad, belied police claims that a buy-bust operation was being conducted on her sons when they were shot after they resisted arrest.
She claimed the siblings were all asleep at the time when policemen suddenly barged into their shanty.
Jean said her sons were ready to live a new life and even went to mass last Sunday.
“Pagkagawas nila atong Biyernes, nag-celebrate sila diri gamay ug kagahapon (Sunday) nanimba mi tanan, dayon nagplano gani sila nga mobakasyon ngadto sa amo sa Argao ug nagplano sab nga moadto sa among paryente sa Manila (After they were released last Friday, they had a small celebration here and last Sunday we all went to mass, then they planned to go on a vacation to Argao and then visit our relatives in Manila),” said Jean.
The brothers’ grandmother, Conchita Umpad, was in another shanty next to where her grandsons were staying when she was suddenly awakened by bursts of gunfire.
She was stunned to see her grandchildren bleeding and unconscious.
The three were immediately brought by police to Mandaue City Hospital where they were declared dead on arrival at 1:20 a.m.
“Ila nalang unta gihatagan og higayon nga magbag-o dili kay ilang patayon,” said the grandmother. (They should have given them the chance to live a new life and not kill them.)
The Umpads plan to seek the help of the Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7) to investigate the incident.
Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, the Police Regional Office director in Central Visayas (PRO-7), believes the operation was legitimate based on police reports reaching his office.
Espino explained that intelligence reports from the Mandaue City Police said that the three brothers were still actively involved in selling illegal drugs even though they were just recently released from jail.
“Kahit na abswelto na sila, but if they still commit again a violation at napag-alaman ng pulis ito hindi sila exempted (Even if they had already been absolved from their case, but they still commit again a violation and police will learn about it, they are not exempted),” said Espino.
The same goes for drug surrenderers, Espino warned.
“Our operation against those persons involved in drug trafficking is continuous,” Espino said.
Espino also welcomed any investigation into the incident saying that police had nothing to fear since the operation was legitimate.
“I stand by what was reported to me by the City Director of Mandaue City Police Office, that the person died in a police operation because of a legitimate buy-bust operation that they conducted against the four personalities,” Espino told reporters.
In a press conference yesterday, Mandaue City Mayor Luigi Quisumbing said that he will leave the matter up to the police.
Quisumbing said that despite successful anti-drug operations in the past months, supplies of illegal drugs from neighboring towns and cities continue to enter Mandaue.
“We hope maabot sa punto (it will come to a point) that there will be no more illegal drugs in Mandaue,” said Quisumbing. with reports from Nestle L. Semilla
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