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‘We made him, he’s ours’

/ 05:36 AM September 15, 2017

The Philippine National Police acted dishonorably in the days leading up to the burial of “Kulot”—the 14-year-old boy, Reynaldo de Guzman, who went missing in Cainta, Rizal, and whose badly mutilated body was found, 18 days later, in Gapan, Nueva Ecija. We should say “members of the PNP,” because we realize there are many police officers who still lead lives of integrity and do not want to abuse either power or office. But even though these good men and women want no part in it, the systematic misconduct of others still reflect on them and on the institution itself.

So we regret that we can and must say that the PNP, as an institution, acted dishonorably in these last few days, in three ways.

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First, it officially conducted a DNA test on Kulot that neither the bereaved parents nor the lawyers handling his case, the Public Attorneys Office, asked for or were expressly told about.

The PAO Forensic Laboratory released a statement decrying the carrying out of the test in the first place. “There was no issue at all on the identity of the cadaver and … there [were] no other claimants. The PAO Forensic Lab therefore will take no further action on the DNA result as it appears to be of very little credibility given the circumstances surrounding its release.” The statement also raised the possibility that the test was itself illegal, because it was not done in the presence of counsel (that is, PAO lawyers).

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To the reply from the PNP that the DNA test was standard operating procedure, PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta responded: “If it’s an SOP on their part, how come they did not conduct a DNA test on Kian and Carl?” She was referring to the other teenagers who were caught in the “One Time, Big Time” trap sprung by the police in the third week of August, and who did not get out alive. Kian delos Santos, 17, was seen on CCTV footage being dragged along by men in civilian clothes (later acknowledged by the PNP to be police officers) and then killed, in Caloocan; Carl Arnaiz, 19, was a friend of Kulot’s who went out with him for a midnight snack in Cainta and was found dead, 10 days later, again in Caloocan.

Kulot’s parents, Eddie and Lina, identified him positively when they saw the wart on his knee and the scar on his neck that marked him.

Second, the PNP officially tried to physically remove Kulot’s remains from his own wake, a day
after the DNA report came out. The parents resisted, there was a commotion—and eventually the policemen, reportedly members of the Criminal Detection and Investigation Group, left.

To the injury of an uncalled-for DNA test denying Kulot’s identity, the police added insult by attempting to take his body away. The heavy security at Kulot’s funeral (even the parents had to wear bulletproof vests) was designed, as someone from the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program explained, to stop any last-minute effort to take Kulot’s remains. “Ang gusto namin secure talaga, mahirap na, baka masingitan kami (What we want is to be sure of security, because someone might pull a fast one).”

Thirdly, the police indirectly denied Kulot a dignified burial by continuing to question his identity. But Eddie, Kulot’s father, claimed the body of the boy found in Gapan as his very own. On the day of the funeral, he told the press: “Anak namin yan, dugo’t laman namin yan. Kami gumawa nyan, sa amin yan (That’s our son, our own flesh and blood. We made him, he’s ours).”

To the father’s wrenching assertion of love and affection and responsibility, we can add a note on liability: The society that created the conditions in which a simple midnight snack for a trouble-free boy turns deadly, the institution that conducted that “One Time, Big Time” operation in the third week of August, the government that for some reason needed to have a bloody spectacle, possibly to divert attention from other controversies—all helped to make Kulot, too: another innocent, another victim. His death is on them.

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TAGS: DNA test, editorial, Kulot, Philippine National Police, PNP, Reynaldo de Guzman
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