Two teens—15-year-old Fabel Pineda and her 18-year-old cousin—attended a friend’s party in San Juan, Ilocos Sur, on June 27.
At 1 a.m. the following day, two police officers, Police Staff Sergeants Randy Ramos and Marawi Torda of the town’s police station, arrested them for allegedly breaching curfew, and offered to take them home. Instead, the two men allegedly took the girls to a beach where one of them raped the 18-year-old, while the other sexually molested Pineda.
With the support of relatives, the girls filed a complaint against the two at the nearby town of Cabugao. On July 2, Pineda followed up her complaint and requested a police escort, which was refused by the Women’s Desk officer, Police Staff Sgt. Merly Joy Pascua. According to Pineda’s uncle who was with her at the station, the policewoman, whose task was to assist rape victims, sneered at them and said: “Ano gusto nyo, babantayan na lang namin kayo (So you expect us to play nanny to you)?”
On their way home, Pineda and her relatives were ambushed by two men riding tandem on a motorcycle. The girl was shot dead. Pineda’s kin pointed to the same policemen who had sexually abused the two young women as having assassinated the 15-year-old Pineda, who bravely stood up for her rights in the vain hope that the law could protect her.
Ramos and Torda have since been arrested, relieved of their posts, disarmed, and put under restrictive custody at the Ilocos Sur Police Provincial Office in Bantay town. Both are facing murder, rape, and sexual molestation charges. But while Philippine National Police chief Gen. Archie Gamboa has vowed to lean hard on the PNP Internal Affairs Service to finish its investigation and possibly dismiss the two errant policemen in 15 days, all that is scant comfort to Pineda’s family, who bears the brunt of another instance of police impunity in current times. Gamboa couldn’t have said it better when he described Ramos and Torda as “animals who deserve to be jailed for life. They are merciless, heartless and worthless policemen.”
Ilocos Sur Gov. Ryan Luis Singson has also requested the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the case, expressing distrust in the province’s police force to go after two of their own. In any case, how can one trust police officers who use the law—the alleged curfew restriction—and their position as persons of authority to trick girls into going with them in the dead of night on the pretext of taking them home, and then brutalizing them?
How could law enforcers seamlessly morph into lawbreakers? Might that not spring from the overweening patronage and promises of protection the police have been given by the country’s leaders in return for their unquestioning loyalty and zeal to implement the Duterte administration’s ruthless anti-drug policies? The Ilocos Sur rape-slay case comes barely a week after four unarmed soldiers were similarly gunned down by the police in Jolo, Sulu, in what the PNP initially called a “misencounter” and later amended to “a shooting incident,” but which Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay bluntly pronounced as a “rubout,” a case of “murder.”
The police’s lethal habits have impacted not only thousands of drug suspects gunned down in their homes in the middle of the night without the benefit of a hearing, but also children caught in the crossfire. While Pineda’s killing is not drug-related, she nevertheless counts as yet another casualty in the hands of the police, joining the grim roster of at least 122 children who have died under this administration from July 2016 to December 2019, according to the report “How Could They Do This To My Child?” by the World Organization Against Torture and the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center.
That number is the minimum, the report said, since families are often too afraid to report or testify about the killings. Based on their investigations, the two groups found that 47 of the killings were carried out as part of police operations, while the remaining 75 had been executed by unidentified individuals who often had some links to the police. Aside from their underreported number, the documented killings are of particular concern because of the heightened vulnerability of children and the states’ “particular responsibility to guarantee and promote children’s rights, and (its) specific duty to investigate and ensure accountability for the violations of such rights,” the groups said.
Exacting accountability for the double monstrosity committed against Pineda cannot end with shocked reactions from the PNP leadership and mere dismissal from the service of the two uniformed culprits. This and all the other EJKs have to go all the way to exemplary convictions and costly penalties, to crowbar the police force toward doing more to reform its ranks.
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