PNP: No automatic reinstatement for acquitted cop in Navotas teen slay

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

March 1, 2024, 5:23 pm

<p>PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo <em>(File photo)</em></p>

PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo (File photo)

MANILA – The lone police officer acquitted of charges over the death of 17-year-old Jerhode “Jemboy” Baltazar will not be automatically reinstated into the force, a ranking police official said Friday.

In a press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the involved police were slapped with administrative cases that are separate from the criminal cases filed against them.

The Navotas City Regional Trial Court Branch 286 on Tuesday acquitted a lone accused, S/Sgt. Antonio Bugayong, while it convicted S/Sgt. Gerry Maliban of homicide and Executive Master Sgt. Roberto Balais Jr., S/Sgt. Nikko Esquillon, Cpl. Edward Blanco, and Pat. Benedict Mangada of illegal discharge of a firearm.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier charged six policemen with murder for the death of Baltazar, who was killed in an alleged case of mistaken identity during a police operation in Navotas City in August 2023.

“Ito naman administrative case na isinampa sa kanila ay for grave misconduct, serious irregularity in the performance of duty, conduct unbecoming, iba yung ebidensya iprinisent sa kanila (The administrative cases filed against them are for grave misconduct, serious irregularity in the performance of duty, conduct unbecoming, the evidence presented against them is different),” Fajardo told reporters.

Fajardo said the six police officers were able to appeal their dismissal in November last year, two months before the court handed down its verdict.

“Regardless if they were acquitted, the appeal won't be automatically approved in their favor, much more their reinstatement. There is a process to be followed," Fajardo said.

Fajardo, meanwhile, said the victim's family is free to appeal the case.

"They can exhaust legal remedies but sabi ko nga doon sa (as I have said regarding the) issue, kung puwede pa ba i-appeal, kailangan natin pag-aralan because yung principle ng (if this can be appealed, there is a need to study this because of the principle of) double jeopardy na maaaring maging hadlang para buksan muli ang kaso na ito (which can be a hindrance to re-opening this case). But then again, tinitingnan pa natin kung mapapag-aralan naman ng DOJ kung ano-ano pa ang puwede nilang magawa para i-apela pa yung kaso (we are looking at whether the DOJ can further study this and find out what can they do to appeal the case)," she added.

The PNP earlier welcomed the court's ruling, which it said reflects the institution’s commitment to upholding justice and accountability within its ranks. (PNA)