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Group calls for independent probe into teenager's death in shootout

"Rise Up for Life and for Rights" group is calling for an independent investigation into the killing of an 17-year-old in a shoot out with policemen in Pangasinan, as it claimed that the incident was another case of "nanlaban" scenario.

"We call for a thorough and independent investigation into the killing of Joshua Laxamana," Rise Up said in a statement on Saturday.

According to reports, Laxamana was an alleged Akyat Bahay gang member who ignored a police checkpoint and fired shots at manning police officers in Barangay Poblacion, Balungao before who was killed on Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway (TPLEx) access road on August 17.

The rights group, however, belied the police account claiming that it had "woven an elaborate scenario of Laxamana as motorcycle-riding, checkpoint-evading, firearm-wielding, shabu-carrying suspect —a 'nanlaban' case."

Police also accused Joshua of being involved in four “akyat-bahay” burglaries in Pangasinan, Rise Up said.

Also, it said the Philippine National Police was quick to declare Laxamana as deceased in its Facebook page, but failed to contact the victim's mother, who only learned of her son’s death and the location of his remains on the morning of August 21.

Citing the account of a "third friend" of Laxamana and the missing 15-year-old Julius Sebastian, Rise Up said the three friends left their homes in Tarlac City on August 14 to search for a DOTA gaming tournament in Baguio City. 

"They successfully hitched rides on trucks to reach Baguio, but on their return to Tarlac beginning at 5 p.m. on August 15, 2018, their excursion took a devastating and deadly turn."

"As per the third friend who arrived back to Tarlac City on August 16, 2018, the three thought they had secured a ride the whole way back to Tarlac City from Baguio; however, when they arrived in Sison, Pangasinan, the truck driver informed them that he changed his plans and could bring them no further from that point.  The three teenagers set out on foot."

Laxamana and Sebastian left their friend at the roadside along TPLEX where he wanted to sleep first before walking further, the group said.

"As he recounts, he had thought they were only joking that they would leave him resting and continue on their own; but, the two indeed never returned to where he slept.  He was able to hitch a ride later in the morning and only discovered that his two friends had not arrived ahead of him, when he himself had arrived in Tarlac City."

Rise Up condemned the yet another police killing with significant indicators of evidence manufacturing and planting. 

"Our confidence in the regularity of these so-called “nanlaban scenarios” has long been exhausted.  Patterns of conduct only underscore the need for further scrutiny on the voracity of such purported evidences and neatly packaged stories," the group said. 

"Joshua is a verified and known DOTA player. Members of his community have come forward to raise questions on the truthfulness of the police report. His missing friend Julius and the testimony of their third companion beg for further inquiry," it added.

"The life of another minor was snuffed out by police authorities and we are impelled to respond; we demand that the killing of Joshua Laxamana be treated with due process.  As the list of Filipino children gunned down and executed grows, from Kian, Carl, “Kulot” and now Joshua."

Rise Up said it also raises utmost concern for the missing teen Julius and urges government to ensure his welfare. —Ted Cordero/LBG, GMA News