Filipino police officer sentenced for murders during drug war

“You drug dealers, robbers and scoundrels better get out. Because I will kill you,” former Philippine President Rodrigo Dutertre said shortly after his election. His government then embarked on a bloody war on drugs and many police killings were committed with impunity. But according to court documents seen on Tuesday, a Filipino police officer was found guilty of the murders of two teenagers.

On March 1, a court in Manila found Jefrey Perez guilty of the 2017 murders of 14-year-old Reynaldo De Guzman and 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz, according to the verdict document seen by AFP. He was sentenced to at least 20 years in prison despite already serving a long prison sentence for being found guilty of torturing the two teenagers by another court in November.

The order to shoot the suspects

His co-defendant, police officer Ricky Arquilita, died while the first trial was unfolding. Both denied the charges against them. The teenagers were last seen together on August 17, 2017. During the trials, a person witness said he saw a police car parked on the roadside and Carl Arnaiz, in handcuffs, get out of the vehicle with his hands raised, shouting “I surrender” before being shot by police officers.

Reynaldo De Guzman’s body was found a few weeks later north of Manila. He bore dozens of stab marks. During his six-year term, which ended in June 2022, Rodrigo Duterte openly ordered the police to shoot suspected drug traffickers.

At least thousands of murders

More than 6,200 people have died as a result of this anti-drug campaign, according to official data, but human rights groups estimate that the number is actually in the tens of thousands. Only three police officers had previously been convicted of killings during the anti-drug campaign, which sparked an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took over from Rodrigo Duterte, has vowed to continue his predecessor’s war on drugs with a particular focus on prevention. Human rights groups, however, say the killings continue under his watch. The ICC said in January it would resume its investigations into the war on drugs, after its pre-trial chamber was “unconvinced that the Philippines is conducting relevant investigations that would warrant a postponement of the court’s investigations.” A decision that Manila appealed.

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