“They fought back” is a common excuse Philippine police use when questioned about the thousands of killings in the government’s drug war.
Most of the time, it’s difficult to know whether this is true or not but a Manila trial court recently found at least one of these claims to be false after a man pretended to be dead during the encounter and lived to question the authorities’ claims.
The case was only reported by media in the last couple of days but tricycle driver Francisco Maneja Jr. was acquitted by Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 40 Judge Alfredo Ampuan in a decision dated Aug. 6, The Philippine Star reported.
Maneja was part of a September 2016 encounter that the police claimed was a legitimate buy-bust operation. At the time, his story made for good tabloid fodder for being about a man who “rose from the dead.”
Maneja was charged with possession of illegal drugs, illegal possession of firearms, frustrated murder, and using violence against authorities, Tempo reported. However, he and his family immediately denied this.
Judge Ampuan ruled in favor of Maneja and said that the police’s narrative of the incident does not add up.
According to authorities, Maneja allegedly pushed an undercover police out of a tricycle before another alleged drug pusher shot the officer.
However, Ampuan said that if this were true, Maneja would have run away instead of alighting from the vehicle.
“It must be noted that the court finds the version of the prosecution a little odd as the same runs counter to human experience,” Ampuan wrote in the ruling.
According to Maneja’s camp, what happened was that a man boarded the victim’s tricycle and asked to be brought to a grocery store but on the way there, told him to drive to a police station instead, Tempo reported.
At the police station was the other alleged drug pusher. The police allegedly forced the two to admit links to the drug trade and were ordered to fire a gun.
Maneja was also allegedly told to wear a jacket with a gun and drugs in the pockets. They then rode a tricycle to a nearby street where the incident happened.
According to the same report, one of the police officers shot the victim in the chest. He pretended to be dead until more people and the media arrived on the scene.
In his ruling, Ampuan also questioned the fact that the drugs supposedly retrieved from the victim were marked in the hospital and not in the crime scene, GMA News reported. The supposed PHP500 (US$9.34) marked money used in the supposed buy-bust operation was not found.
Maneja was released from jail on Aug. 7 but according to GMA News, he was not found in his listed address.