MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine official on Friday ordered an entire city police force off the job in metropolitan Manila after some of its members were suspected in the gruesome killings of three teenagers and others were seen on surveillance cameras robbing a house.
The 1,200-strong Caloocan city police force will be relieved in batches and replaced, said metropolitan Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde. The officers will undergo 45 days of retraining, after which those facing no charges can be reassigned to other stations.
The Department of Justice has started an investigation based on a murder and torture complaint against four Caloocan policemen allegedly linked to the killing of 17-year-old student Kian delos Santos during an anti-drug raid last month.
The parents of two other teenagers — 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz and 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman — have also filed murder, torture and planting of evidence complaints against two Caloocan policemen.
Last week, security-camera video purportedly showed 13 policemen robbing a house during an alleged drug raid.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs, which has left thousands of suspects dead, has come under renewed scrutiny since police gunned down delos Santos. Police described him as a drug dealer who fired at officers during a raid, but his family and witnesses said the student was shot as he pleaded for his life.
Witnesses pointed to evidence, including a village security video, which they said showed two police officers dragging delos Santos away shortly before shots rang out and he was found fatally shot in the head, holding a pistol with his left hand although his parent said he was right-handed. Police officers testified at a Senate hearing that delos Santos was not the man seen being dragged in the video, although several witnesses doubted the police statement.
Delos Santos’s death was followed by another outcry over the killing of former University of the Philippines student Arnaiz. Police said he was killed when he shot it out with police after robbing a taxi driver last month. A government forensic expert, however, said Arnaiz apparently was handcuffed, tortured and shot five times.
Arnaiz’s parents say he went out with de Guzman to buy a snack on the night of Aug. 17 but never returned home. They found Arnaiz in a morgue 10 days later.
De Guzman’s body was found floating in a creek in a city north of Manila last week. The boy’s head was wrapped with packing tape and his body bore about 28 stab wounds.