Palace clears head of PNP ‘Davao Boys’ in QC teen’s killing

Col. Lito Patay (File photo by JUNJIE MENDOZA / Cebu Daily News)

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has cleared the leader of the so-called Davao Boys — the team said to have made Batasan Police Station 6 in Quezon City the most notorious at the height of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war — of administrative charges relating to the death of a minor during a 2016 buy-bust operation.

In so doing, it effectively dealt a final blow to a six-year battle for justice waged by 17-year-old Darwin Hamoy’s mother and other women bereaved by one of the most prominent killings in Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, which is now under investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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In a seven-page document dated May 25, 2022, a copy of which was sent to the Inquirer, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea ordered the dismissal of the administrative charges filed against Col. Lito Patay, former head of Batasan Police Station 6, for his supposed role in Hamoy’s brutal death.

Hamoy was killed along with Cherwen Polo, William Bordeos, Sherwin Ternal and a certain “Rambo” in a drug raid conducted on Aug. 15, 2016, by a team of 16 Station 6 cops on the Polos’ house in Barangay Payatas B in Quezon City.

The team claimed that those killed had engaged the cops in a gunfight. Mariza Hamoy and widows Katrina Polo and Marlyn Bordeos subsequently challenged that claim at the Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Services (PNP-IAS) and the Office of the Ombudsman.

It was actually the PNP-IAS that filed charges of grave misconduct and grave irregularity against the 16 policemen in 2018. As their commander, Patay was also charged with two counts of grave neglect of duty and one count each of less grave neglect of duty and simple neglect of duty.

‘More convincing’ narration

In a 10-page report approved on Oct. 17, 2018, the PNP-IAS said Mariza Hamoy’s “detailed narration of facts and circumstances, duly corroborated by [the widows] Polo and Bordeos, is more convincing than the alibis of the policemen.”

But in ordering the dismissal of the charges against Patay, Medialdea cited a PNP resolution dated April 29, 2020, that recommended the move. According to the resolution, there was “no substantial evidence…[to] point to the fact that respondent Patay was remiss in his performance of duties.”

The resolution has not been reported in public thus far.

Medialdea argued that Patay’s only participation in the operation was being the station commander.

He said: “No other substantial proof was submitted to corroborate the charge that respondent Patay directly or indirectly had a hand in the supposedly unlawful killing of the drug suspects and injury to them.”

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‘In interest of wrongdoers’

Joel Sarmenta, former media director of the Commission on Human Rights who had assisted Mariza Hamoy and the other women in their case, said Malacañang’s move “ended up victimizing further the families of those killed.”

“This proves a definite attempt to obfuscate matters and act in the interest of the wrongdoers [despite] their assurances of a fair justice system aimed at showing that the ICC is no longer needed,” said Sarmenta, who is now the spokesperson of the Filipino-American Human Rights Alliance.

He added that the Palace’s move “demolished the principle of equal protection under the law.”

Medialdea also appeared to come to the defense of the 16 cops involved in the raid. He said the 2018 dismissal of criminal charges filed against them at the Office of the Ombudsman meant there was “no evidence to support the accusation that the policemen used excessive force” during the raid.

In that decision, Mariza Hamoy and Marlyn Bordeos were berated for “miserably fail[ing] to prove their contentions with substantial evidence.” Yet the two women had consistently complained of being kept in the dark of the proceedings and of not even being informed of the PNP resolution dated April 29, 2020.

Medialdea argued that the dismissal of the criminal case against the policemen “clearly shows that respondent Patay was correct in not imposing disciplinary actions [on] his subordinates.”

“Relatively speaking, being a public officer, respondent Patay has in his favor the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties which the private complainants failed to rebut,” Medialdea said.

Bato’s choice

Observers say it is rare for Malacañang to intervene in an administrative case like this, except when it involves a presidential appointee.

Patay, a champion marksman, is not a presidential appointee. But he was among the Davao cops personally trusted and later handpicked by now Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa to run police stations when the latter assumed the post of PNP chief.

Per the PNP Manual, it is the IAS that recommends administrative charges, and it is the PNP chief that has the final say on whether to uphold or modify the IAS recommendation.