Monday, November 05, 2007

A Hope that is fleeting, a Hope that is fleeing


-- 5 November 2007; The City of Manila.

A Hope that is fleeting, a Hope that is fleeing

Statement of the Manzano Family
in remembrance of Francis Xavier V. Manzano
on his Second Death Anniversary

On November 7, 2005, our family lost a brother when Francis Xavier V. Manzano—FX to us--was killed in cold blood by elements of the Traffic Management Group (TMG). Almost immediately after, the TMG elements and the top echelon of the Philippine National Police (PNP) tried to justify his death officially by painting him and his companions Anton Cu-Unjieng and Brian Dulay in the worst possible light. They claimed they were carnappers, even as they were never charged in court.

None of the government agencies, save for one, lifted a finger to go beyond the official pronouncement of the PNP. Only the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) dared to contradict the almost formula findings of the PNP and TMG. In its unanimous report, the CHR courageously told us—Francis’s grieving family—what we had suspected all along: he and his companions were killed in cold blood, using disproportionate and, in fact, overwhelming force. The CHR’s findings were borne out by the raw footage of UNTV, which captured the entire incident as it happened. The CHR’s findings were also based on scientific evidence painstakingly preserved and secured by Dr. Raquel Del Rosario-Fortun, an independent consultant engaged by the CHR.

Because of this report, we, Francis’s family, dared to hope. We dared to hope that, finally, the truth, as found by the CHR, would find its way into prosecution on those responsible and meting out penalties on those who would be found liable by a court of law. We dared to hope, despite all our personal misgivings and a sense of collective pessimism, that the Ombudsman, the government agency vested with jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the police elements who killed Francis and his companions, would prove worthy of our hope, if not our trust.

It was because of that hope that we finally decided to formally cooperate with the Ombudsman. It was because of that hope that we dared to speak out in public and ask that the Ombudsman perform its foresworn duty. It was because of that hope that we sought an audience with the Ombudsman, Merceditas Gutierrez, to try to bring to her attention our desperate cry for justice. It was because of that hope that we took her word for it when she told us on July 25, 2006, that she would help us.

It is almost two years since FX was killed in cold blood and it has been more than one year since the meeting with the Ombudsman. Despite the utter simplicity of the issues presented by this case, the Ombudsman has yet to file charges against those responsible for the killing of our brother.

Not one policeman who fired a shot has been disciplined administratively. Not one policeman who participated in the killing has been suspended preventively. Not one policeman has been placed on notice that the killings of November 7, 2005 were anything but regular.

Instead, they continue to roam the streets, armed. Some of the officers involved have even been promoted and transferred to other posts.

Madam Ombudsman, when we met with you, you assured us of your help. We were of the impression that you understood what was going on. We were of the impression that you were aware that three (3) people were killed—without any of them having fired a shot. We were of the impression that you had some clue that an overwhelming number of policemen with an overwhelming use of force had converged on a narrow street on November 7, 2005 to kill three civilians. We were of the impression that you knew what was going on.

Madam Ombudsman, we do not want to think that we were wrong. We do not want to think you are unaware of what is going on. But how else can we explain the long delay in the resolution of the investigation, the apparent unwillingness to act on a clear case of extrajudicial killings by policemen, the inaction by your Office? How else indeed, unless we are to think that while you are indeed aware of what is going on, you do not care at all.

Madam Ombudsman, worse than allowing the killing of FX to remain unpunished would be to allow our hope to vanish.

We ask you now, Madam Ombudsman, prove us wrong.

Show us that you not only know what is going on, but that you also care.

Show us that we were not wrong to hope, even if fleetingly, that those who commit such heinous crimes will be held accountable.

Show us that we may still hope for some measure of justice in this country.

Today, we, FX’s family, remember him on the second year of his passing. We thank all of you, the responsible members of media, who have accompanied us in our journey to seek justice for him and for Anton Cu-Unjieng. We thank all those who have supported us in many different ways. We ask you all to continue to pray for FX and Anton. We ask you also to pray with us for our country—that a day will come soon when widowed and orphaned families may no longer need to raise their cries for justice to the heavens because justice on earth would have been done.


On November 7, 2005 three young men—Anton Cu-Unjieng,

Francis Xavier Manzano and Bryan Anthony Dulay--were gunned down by a team of policemen in front of the AIC Gold Tower Building at the corner of Garnet and Ortigas Streets, Pasig City. After the incident, the policemen immediately claimed self-defense. They had no choice but to shoot, they said, because the young men were armed and fired at them first.

What they did not know at the time was that the killings were caught on videotape by television outfit whose office was just meters away from the crime scene। The videotape debunked the lawmen’s claim of a shootout। It showed, at close range and in graphic detail, how the policemen mercilessly executed the defenseless young men, and how they tampered with the crime scene afterward to make it appear as if the victims were killed in a legitimate police encounter.

The broadcasting of the videotape over national television caused a public clamor for the Government to look deeper into the matter. And yet, despite the presence of a “smoking gun” in the form of the videotape, and in spite of the fact that the authorities knew the identities of the lawmen involved, no government official or agency took any steps whatsoever to suspend, relieve, investigate, prosecute or punish the perpetrators.

The only government body that took action on the case was the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). With commendable zeal and dispatch, the CHR—ably assisted by Dr. Raquel Fortun, the country’s top forensic expert—thoroughly investigated the case and found ten police officers liable for arbitrary deprivation of life: P/SInsp. Hansel M. Marantan, P/SInsp. Samson B. Belmonte, PO3 Rizalito SM Ramos, Jr., PO3 Lloyd F. Soria, PO2 Dexter M. Bernadas, P/SInsp. Henry R. Cerdon, PO2 Jesus S. Fermin, PO2 Sonny R. Robrigado, PO2 Fernando Rey S. Gapuz, and PO1 Josil Rey I. LuceƱa, all from the Traffic Management Group, Philippine National Police.

The CHR, however, could not prosecute the offenders because it is not legally empowered to do so. Accordingly, the CHR forwarded its findings to Ombudswoman Merceditas Gutierrez, who assured us, when we visited her in July of last year, that her office would give the case its prompt and proper attention.

Since then, the Ombudswoman’s office has done absolutely nothing.

We cannot help but question why the Ombudswoman’s office, after 17 months, has not even started conducting a preliminary investigation of the case. We question why no one has been charged, relieved, suspended or prosecuted when the evidence is not just compelling but overwhelming and the lawmen’s identities and whereabouts are known.

But our biggest question of all is, for how long will the case remain in limbo, at the mercy of the Ombudswoman?

We cry for justice for our loved one, Anton Cu-Unjieng and all other victims of extrajudicial killings.

We condemn not only the lawmen who take the law into their own hands, but the government officials and agencies who coddle and shield them from prosecution and punishment.

We call upon the Government to make a serious and concerted effort to stop extrajudicial killings, cleanse the ranks of the PNP, and punish all State agents who take the law into their own hands.

Finally, we call upon Ombudswoman Gutierrez to utilize the full extent of her powers and resources to vigorously prosecute not only Anton’s case but all cases of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by government officials.

Done this 5th day of November, 2007, in the City of Manila, Philippines.

Mrs. Carmencita Cu-Unjieng Mrs. Monique Cu-Unjieng LaO’