A young man in the prime of his youth was shot to death. The killer was a non-uniformed police personnel.
If it happened in Manila, it would have attracted media attention. But it happened in Davao City, the place long known to have police involvement in extrajudicial killings with money rewards from City Hall.
We know that from the testimonies of former Rodrigo Duterte hitmen Arturo Lascañas and Edgar Matobato. Matobato had intimated in his testimony submitted to the International Criminal Court that the Davao city modus operandi under the Dutertes was that civilian hitmen were handled by police and were paid from a ghost employees payroll. “That is why no Davao Death Squad hitmen were arrested because the police were part of the DDS.”
But the killing that happened after midnight of July 2 was no DDS liquidation. The oddity however was the killer was a medical doctor of the police regional hospital in the city; the more reason why it is a test if police impunity still reigns in Davao City. As we write, the investigation has taken a slow grind. If the opposing parties were both civilians, would it have been resolved by now?
The Commission on Human Rights itself notes the conflicting accounts of the incident. Which account have the Davao City police sided on?
Amierkhan Mangacop, 19 years old, the son of farmers, was shot seven times at the parking area of Lugar Café and Bar in Davao City. The suspect in the killing was Dr. Marvin Rey Andrew Pepino of the PNP Police Regional Office 11, son of the late Police General Marvin Manuel Pepino who had served as director of the Cybercrime Investigation Office of the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center.
Mangacop’s family had related that he was already asleep that Friday night of July 1. In the Facebook page “Justice for Amier Mangacop” his family and friends had created, they related that Amier had only gotten out of bed after his cousin called him asking for his help. The cousin asked Amier to fetch him at Lugar Café and Bar, as the cousin was afraid of going home alone.
Police admitted that Pepino was intoxicated at the time of the killing, and was armed.
The killer’s account differs. Pepino pleaded self-defense, saying Amier’s group, which had an altercation with Pepino’s companions, mauled him. Two things: the shooting happened in the presence of one police officer, PCpl Ropel Garsalino; by Monday morning, the director of the Davao City Police Office Col. Alberto Lupaz gave out a statement to media that Pepino merely pacified the commotion but that he was forced to fire his gun when he was mauled by Amier’s group.
The police had filed a complaint of murder and illegal possession of firearms against Pepino at the Davao City Prosecution Office for determination of probable cause. Yet subsequent behavior by the police is a comedy of errors that appear to be protective of Pepino.
First, police announced they have a protocol not to release the mugshots of Pepino. Really? Was that “protocol” accorded too to Leila de Lima?
Then the city’s National Bureau of Investigation staged a reenactment of the crime, which is laughable considering that Davao City touts itself as ringed with CCTV cameras. Let us not forget the primary slogan it brags about: that it is crime-free, even though PNP statistics itself contradicts that political marketing narrative.
And the response of the new city mayor, the bohemian Baste Duterte: a stricter liquor ban. Hala! Are we seeing now before our eyes his inherited trait from his dynast father and sister of protecting police crimes?
Public perception circulating in the city is skewed to the opinion that Davao City police appears to be covering up its own, that there appears to be an absence of transparency in the probe. For example, how true are reports that Pepino is going around the city with security escorts and the Dutertes are mum about it? How true are reports that a congressman’s family close to the ruling family owns the café and bar?
In a statement, the lawyer of the Mangacop family “urged the people who witnessed the incident to come out and give their statements.” I commiserate with Amier’s family but could not help find that call deficiently benign. Is that even possible in Davao City? Who would testify there against the police when everyone knows they are the established aggressors in the city? Davao City is Wild Wild West precisely because of the Duterte playbook of police impunity.
This brings us to the dilemma of the false veneer of the Duterte populist politics: we must stop electing the Duterte children to power. Like Baste who is now performing his new duties by OJT, these children are merely heirs of inherited uncontested political power without the true desire to oblige themselves as public servants. We allow them to live off their lives from public money without holding them accountable.
We have seen how the Davao City template has destroyed our national psyche and the credibility of our government institutions from Rodrigo Duterte’s six years of authoritarian misgovernance.
None from that entitled family must ever reign again. It is a tall order and an uphill battle. It will involve going against the currents of massive troll-generated disinformation, of course tons of public money used in their transactional politics, Davao City acquiescence that has lost all sense of citizen contestation, and then probably and, as many believe by now—SD cards of vote counting machines.
How on earth that will happen under our warped, damaged and injured political system is the biggest question.