Three alleged members of a vigilante group accused of killing four people, including a 16-year-old boy in Tondo, Manila, were presented to Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Thursday afternoon.
The suspects, arrested on Wednesday, were identified as Manuel Murillo alias Joel, 33; Marco Morallos alias Naldo, 33; and Alfredo Alejan alias Jun, 42, all members of Confederate Sentinels Group (CSG) and residents of Tondo.
Seized from them were a cal.38 revolver, a .9mm pistol, a .9mm magazine loaded with five live ammunitions, two sumpak, three pices 12-gauge shotgun live ammunitions, 16 pieces caliber .45 live ammunitions, a sword, and nine assorted cellular phones.
Dela Rosa said the three admitted to the killing of victim Charlie Saladaga, 16, whose body was found inside a sack and floating on the shoreline of Isla Puting Bato in Tondo on January 2.
Confederate Sentinels Group
Dela Rosa said the CSG was a civilian volunteer organization that turned into a vigilante group that has been in operation for five months now.
"Sila ay miyembro sila ng civilian volunteer organization na CSG na apparently naging vigilante group dahil pinapatay nila yung mga suspek nila doon na magnanakaw daw, kaya yung bata na 16 years old tinarget, pinatay nila dahil nagnanakaw daw doon," Dela Rosa said in a press conference.
He said the suspects were riding on the government’s intensified war against illegal drugs to conduct their operations.
"Sumabay sila sa ating war on drugs kasi nangyari ito January, so sumakay sila sa ating war on drugs hoping na pag meron silang titirahin ang mapuputukan pulis agad," Dela Rosa said.
"Alam kasi nila na maraming namamatay kay sumasabay na rin sila sa sitwasyon, sumasakay na sila akala nila hindi madidiskubre at pulis na naman ang mapagbibintangan," he added.
Arrest absolves police
Dela Rosa said the arrest of the three was a proof that vigilante killings were not perpetrated by police officers, as claimed by critics of the Duterte administration's war on drugs.
"So this is a solution to some of the DUI (deaths under investigation) cases or yung term by the media as extrajudicial killings, which was being attributed to the police," Dela Rosa said.
Manila Police District director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel said the suspects have pointed to a certain Commander Maning or Ricardo Villamonte as their leader.
"These suspects are members of a civilian volunteer organization involved in barangay peace-keeping action teams. They were formerly accredited with our Police Community Relations Group and supposedly they were assisting the PNP in maintaining peace and order," he said.
"But these recent months, we have monitored through several complaints that this group has been engaged in summary killings of alleged suspects in criminal activities but most of the targets like itong si Charlie, pinagbintangan nilang nagnakaw at nagtutulak ng droga, allegedly pinatay nila. There are 3 more cases under investigation, for filing in the court,” he added.
Other victims of the three were identified as Rene Disierto, who was killed on November 22, 2016 in Delpan; Oliver Pableo, killed on September 30, 2016 in Abad Santos, Tondo; and Danilo Penalosa, killed in October 2016.
He said they learned of the identities of the other victims upon examination of the suspects' mobile phones.
“Based on the examination of their cellphone, it appears may mga target pa sila,” Coronel said.
He said the parents of Salagada were initially afraid to report the incident because of fear of reprisal.
“The complainants initially were hesitant to report this incident to the police because akala nila mga pulis yung mga suspek, hina-harass sila, at nagpakilalang mga pulis ang involved in the killing of these 4 cases,” he said.
Dela Rosa urged the public to report to the PNP any barangay police who are using firearms as they are not allowed to carry one.
“For the record they are not authorized to bear firearms. Huhulihin natin sila. I-report ninyo. Hindi sila authorized na maghawak ng armas,” he said. —KBK, GMA News