MANILA — The taxi driver, who was allegedly robbed by slain former University of the Philippines student Carl Angelo Arnaiz, cannot be admitted as state witness, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) said Wednesday.
PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, counsel of the Arnaiz and Reynaldo ‘Kulot’ De Guzman families, said that Tomas Bagcal, 54, cannot be placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) due to the inconsistencies in his statements.
Acosta expressed frustration over Bagcal’s five versions of what happened, from his two affidavits with the Caloocan police, to three separate interviews with different media outlets.
“We’ve heard five versions of the story from him. In his first version, he said the robbers used a handgun and then it later became a knife. He also keeps on changing the actual time of the incident,” Acosta told reporters in chance interview at the Department of Justice.
“How can you place him under the WPP if he is not a state witness? How can you place him under the WPP if he is not telling the truth, and he is inconsistent with his statements?” the PAO Chief noted.
“Real witnesses, no matter where the court is, no matter he is and when, he will testify and what he will say will not change at all,” she added.
The PAO chief said that the only claim Bagcal has been consistent with was his statement that the killing appeared to be “scripted.”
“But (his statements) on the incident’s time, and his claim that Carl had robbed him, the parents just cannot accept these statements because they are not true,” Acosta said.
Acosta, together with her PAO legal team, is currently representing the parents of Arnaiz and De Guzman who had filed double murder charges against Bagcal and three policemen tagged in the incident.
Bagcal turned himself to the National Bureau of Investigation last week after being under the protective custody of non-government organization – Rise Up for Life and for Rights.
Bagcal was also included as respondent in the complaint against Caloocan Police Station PO1 Ricky Arquilita and PO1 Jeffrey Perez for double murder, torture and planting of evidence under Republic Act 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act) and R.A. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act).
“He is already a respondent. He was charged as a co-respondent of the policemen because of what happened. He appears to have legitimized the claim that he was merely a robber who was shot dead by police,” Acosta said.
“It appears that there is a conspiracy here. He has to be placed as a respondent because he has a lot to explain,” she added.
Acosta said only the eyewitness identified as alias “Daniel” who pointed to probers the site where Carl Angelo was killed by police in C-3 Road in Caloocan should be placed under WPP coverage.
She revealed that the witness, who saw how Carl was killed by police, was already interrogated by the NBI for purposes of his WPP application.
In his affidavit, the witness said he saw police drag Carl Angelo out of a police patrol car and ordered to kneel on a grassy area. Holding up his bound wrists, the man pleaded that he was surrendering – “susuko na po ako” – but he was shot dead by two policemen.
Daniel said he hid behind a lamppost when the police car pulled to a stop near the grassy area. He said there was also a young boy in the car, who was believed to be Kulot.
Acosta said Daniel’s statement was consistent with their forensic findings.
Forensic examination on Carl Angelo’s cadaver showed that he was already kneeling when he was shot several times on the chest, suggesting “intentional killing” on the part of the police.
Acosta said they are now submitting the application of Daniel to the DOJ for him to be placed under the WPP.
“We are filing our application for WPP, since he is only under the protective custody of the PAO,” Acosta said.
On Sept. 14, the Arnaiz and De Guzman families filed before the DOJ a complaint against Police Officers 1 Ricky Arquilita and Jeffrey Perez for double murder, torture and planting of evidence under Republic Act 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act) and R.A. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act). The charge sheet included Bagcal and other unidentified policemen as co-respondents.
The first preliminary investigation into the murder cases of Arnaiz and De Guzman has been scheduled by the prosecution panel on October 10.