CHR PROCEEDS WITH PROBE
Although the initial autopsy results showed no signs of close-range firing, the Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR 7) will continue its investigation into the death of John Jason Montes, who was slain along with a notorious drug personality in Bohol on May 28.
Leo Villarino, CHR 7 chief investigator, said no conclusions were made yet by Dr. Ludivino Lagat, the head of the CHR forensic team from Manila that conducted an autopsy on Montes on Monday.
The physician, he said, merely responded to questions from reporters on whether or not Montes was shot at close range, in the wake of the Montes family’s allegations that he was a victim of police rubout.
He said that when Lagat said there was no evidence of an overkill, it did not automatically mean that there was no foul play, as Lagat might just be referring to the number of gunshot wounds sustained by Montes.
“Dr. Lagat merely explained the distance between Montes and the person who hit him. But we could not say for now that there was no rubout,” said Villarino.
Villarino was already briefed by Lagat regarding their findings but he did not divulge them to the media, saying it was an internal matter for now.
The autopsy results will be sent to the CHR Forensic Center in Manila for verification and approval, and it would take about two weeks for CHR to release the official results, he said.
Villarino also stressed that the autopsy was just a component of the investigation, particularly since a witness, a 10-year-old girl, claimed that Montes was shot even if he had raised his hands in surrender.
While waiting for the report, Villarino said they intended to seek permission from the parents of the girl witness who also claimed that drug lord Rowen Secretaria alias “Yawa” was not armed and was already down on his knees when shot by policemen.
Secretaria, the third most wanted drug personality in Central Visayas, was killed along with Montes and another cohort, Dario Torremocia.
The CHR also intended to get a report from the Police Regional Office Central Visayas (PRO 7) on the conduct of the operation on Banacon Island, an island-village of Getafe, Bohol that was used as a hideout of Secretaria.
‘JUSTICE FOR JOHN JASON’
Montes, 22, a resident of Barangay Ermita in Cebu City, was laid to rest yesterday afternoon. His family and friends insisted that he was a victim of police brutality.
Under the heat of the sun, about a hundred people walked from his home to the Calamba Public Cemetery to pay their last respects.
Before going to church for the Requiem Mass, the funeral procession passed by City Hall.
Montes’s relatives said they just wanted to express rage over Cebu City Mayor-elect Tomas Osmeña’s decision to reward the raiding teams that killed Montes and the two other drug suspects.
They carried streamers that read “Makonsensya ka Tomas, mga inosente ang naangin” (Your conscience should bother you, Tomas, innocent persons were harmed); “Hustisya para kay John Jason, biktima sa culture of death nga gi-promote sa mayor” (Justice for John Jason, a victim of the culture of death promoted by the mayor); “Singgit sa taga-Ermita: Buotan dili badlongon ning bataa. Nganong gipatay?” (The cry of Ermita residents: the lad was not bad guy. Why was he killed?)
MERCY, NOT REVENGE
During the Mass at the Archdiocesan Shrine of San Nicolas de Tolentino in Barangay San Nicolas, Fr. Alex Apigo advised Montes’s parents and relatives to seek God’s mercy instead of seeking revenge.
“Our consolation is God’s mercy. May we be able to experience it,” he said in his homily.
Apigo also called on people to live a good life, establish a relationship with the Lord and neighbors, and to always prepare for death.
“We never know when death would come. Let us follow God’s commandments so that when death arrives, we are ready to face God, the supreme judge,” the priest said.
“We are here to ask God, the author of life, to help us return to him with our whole heart,” he added.
Montes’s parents Victor and Susana sobbed as the priest smoked with incense his coffin.
His father, Victor, reiterated their plea for justice.
“Buotan intawon ni akong anak. Inosente siya. Hinaot pa unta matagaan og hustisya ang iyang kamatayon (My son was a good man. He was innocent.
I hope to find justice over his death),” he said in an interview.
Victor said he wanted a quiet and simple funeral procession for his son, but their relatives and neighbors wanted to bring placards to protest the incoming Cebu City mayor’s support to policemen who killed his son.
Victor stressed he had nothing against Osmeña’s decision to reward Cebu policemen who could kill drug lords and other criminals, but he said the police should get their targets right.
John Jason was the fifth of six children of Victor and Susana, who operate a carenderia in Ermita.
John Jason loved to play basketball and was recruited as a varsity player of the junior team of the University of San Jose-Recoletos but did not make it to the team because he did not pass the university’s entrance exam.
Montes was a first year high school student at the Regino Mercado School in Cebu City when he dropped out of school four years ago.
On his coffin, Montes wore the white jersey of the Oklahoma City Thunder, his favorite team in the National Basketball Association.
Senior Supt. Patrocinio Comendador Jr., PRO 7 director, said he understood the sentiments of Montes’s parents but insisted that the raiding teams simply did their job.
He advised parents to look after their children.
“There could never be perfect parents. But at the end of the day, we have to see to it that our children are at home every night. Let’s look at how we are as parents. Let us monitor our children. Even I, as a father, would look after my kids night and day,” Comendador said.
Comendador said they welcomed the CHR probe, as the government agency has the mandate to do it.
“CHR is just doing their job. On our part, we would just wait when a complaint will be filed against our policemen. But we have been stating that it’s not the job of the police to object when claims of a rubout emerge. We went to Banacon for a (legitimate) purpose,” he said.
Comendador also cautioned persons who might have instructed minors to fabricate stories and testimonies against policemen, apparently referring to the claim of the ten-year-old girl that policemen summarily killed the three suspects.
“We will go after them because they violate our criminal laws,” he said.
Comendador said they were verifying reports that drug syndicates in Banacon were using minors to testify against policemen.
“We won’t stop what we are doing. Policemen risk their lives in going after bad elements in society and yet they are bombarded with allegations afterwards. That should stop,” he said.
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