COMMENTARY: Phillip Bacudo, 19, missing: a sacrifice in the process of society’s self-correction

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 19 Nov) — Even without us doing anything, society can correct itself through its own natural way of dealing with itself. Society has its own mechanism for self-correction.

When it becomes so wrong, society either explodes itself to pave the way for the birthing of a new one, or, creates certain circumstances to publicly expose the culprits who make it so wrong in order to cripple them.

When 13, 000 people were killed by men riding-in-tandem, and in police operations nationwide within a period spanning a little more than one year, there is really something so wrong in Philippine society.

When 65 persons were killed by men riding-in-tandem since January this year, four of them in August, 14 in September and 12 in October, there is really something so wrong in General Santos City.

But society, in its drive to correct itself, did not allow itself to burst, not yet (!). Instead, it created certain circumstances to publicly expose the culprits, so clearly that it is no longer very difficult for government authorities to identify or punish them … if they want to.

In the case of Kian Lloyd Delos Santos, in Caloocan, the culprits who made society so wrong were publicly exposed through the behest of a CCTV camera which vividly captured them. The CCTV footage wholly shattered the “nanlaban” theory, which is used to rationalize the massive killings perpetrated by law enforcement officers during police operations.

Phillip E. Bacudo, 19, missing.

In the case Phillip E. Bacudo, 19 years old, a resident of Purok Greenville, Barangay Calumpang, General Santos City, who had gone missing after he was arrested by the police near the Velox Police Station along Mabuhay Road in the same city, a clear lead for the eventual identification of the police suspects is established through the behest of his parents, Bernard C. Bacudo and Susana E. Bacudo.

They tirelessly “excavated” every nook and cranny of the city, and sought the help of anyone whom they think could be instrumental in their difficult task of looking for their missing son.

I really hate to articulate this idea. But the case of Phillip proves that the police is really behind the massive killings perpetrated by men riding-in-tandem in General Santos City.

The lackluster attitude towards the killings, added with the impunity through which these killing are being undertaken, is a red flag that warns us that these killings are, indeed, being done by the police and its agents.

When P/S/Supt. Ruel Berango was declared persona non-grata by the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) and the resolution was passed subjecting the killings to legislative inquiry, the killings by men riding-in-tandem suddenly stopped.

For us, it seems to appear now that, when the position of PSS Berango was already at stake, the men riding-in-tandem, responsible for these killings spontaneously stopped their nefarious activities to save their chief of police.

We agonize for this, because the people responsible for these killings in the city might again kill to prove us wrong. But, saying this is necessary in our lonely and difficult search for the truth.

Phillip is yet to be found. It is our fervent hope, however, that as this piece hits the streets of General Santos City, Phillip had already joined his family still a breathing person.

It was already about 1:00 dawn of November 10, 2017, when Phillip, together with his friends, Kenneth Jhun Lorenzo and two minors, all residents of Greenville Subdivision in Barangay Calumpang, decided to go home.

Early on, they enjoyed some bottles of beer at Fastlane, a popular beer joint, located near the Bulaong Terminal of Barangay North.

Instead of going home directly, they decided to go joy-riding along various thoroughfares within the city.

Kenneth was driving the blue tricycle, with Plate Number No.MC 83508, owned by his sister, Sharon Lorenzo.

They were already negotiating Mabuhay Road, specifically near the Jollibee outlet, when a single motorcycle-riding man, in bonnet, called them up, while pointing his fingers at them and at the same time, drawing a gun from his waist.

Dreadful of what they saw, Kenneth stepped on the gas and sped away.

A chase ensued. An SUV-type police car, with blinkers, joined in the chase. Moments later, the sound of a gun being fired was heard.

Sensing that the tricycle was already running out of gasoline, Kenneth turned into a dark alley, with thick bushes on both sides. They passed through Velox Energy Gasoline Station, also located along Mabuhay Road.

As soon as they reached that dark alley, the tricycle stopped as it had run out of fuel. It was there where the motorcycle-riding man in bonnet, and the police patrol car caught up with them.

As it later turned out, only Phillip was arrested. His companions succeeded to hide themselves deep into thick bushes under cover of darkness.

The tricycle was tied to a police patrol car which was driven by a man in blue police uniform. But the eyewitness did not see how many people were actually inside that police patrol car.

The man in bonnet came out from the alley where the tricycle stopped. He was holding Phillip.

He, then, requested the Security Guard of Velox Energy Gasoline Station, Dominador P. Pulido, Jr. to hold the hands of Phillip while he was getting his motorcycle from that alley where he arrested him.

The security guard held the hands of Phillip while waiting for the man in bonnet to return. Phillip was mercifully crying.

When the man in bonnet returned with his motorcycle, he handcuffed Phillip and put him in front of his motorcycle, which followed the police patrol car where the tricycle was attached with a rope, and driven by a man in blue police uniform.

The police patrol car which pulled the tricycle with the use of a rope, and the motorcycle driven by man in bonnet with Phillip sitting in front, were heading towards the direction of Police Station 4, located in Purok Malakas, Barangay San Isidro, General Santos City.

The tricycle was later found parked in the compound of Police Station 4, located in the above-mentioned place.

But the Commander of Police Station 4, PCI Rexor Canoy and his Assistant PSI Lemuel Enrijo, claimed that a concerned citizen called the station about an abandoned tricycle, and so they came to get it, and this is the reason why the tricycle was found in the compound of the police station.

When we accompanied the parents of Phillip to Police Station 4, the desk officers there were wholly clueless as to what had happened. When we were in the midst of questioning the inactions of police personnel in Police Station 4 on the report that Phillip was missing after he was arrested, PSI Enrijo, the deputy station commander, ushered me to his office.

PSI Enrijo cannot show to us actions that his station has undertaken to find Phillip, dead or alive.

He only told me that since the incident was already entered in the Police Blotter Book of his station, it can be assumed that his people are already doing something about it.

It was already early Saturday in the morning when the parents began to look for their son, Phillip Bacudo, as they were already alarmed of the fact that their son had not gone home since the night of Thursday, November 9, 2017.

The parents of the missing child, Bernard C. Bacudo and Susana E. Bacudo rushed to Police Station 4, located in Purok Malakas, Barangay San Isidro, General Santos City, when they were informed that the tricycle, which his son and his companions were riding when he was arrested by the police, was parked inside the compound of this same police station.

While in Police Station 4, they were met by the Deputy Station Commander Enrijo who treated them with arrogance. He refused to enter the incidents into police blotter book and, instead, he directed the parents to proceed to Police Station 5, located in Barangay Tambler, General Santos City.

What PSI Enrijo had done to the parents of Phillip, was clearly a great anomaly, considering that the scene of the incident was under the area of jurisdiction of Police Station 4, in Purok Malakas, and not of Police Station 5, in Barangay Tambler, which is about 20 kilometers away from the scene of the incident.

It was only later that the parents of Phillip found out that the facts and circumstances that they narrated before the desk officers of Police Stations 4 and 5 were not entered in their respective police blotter books.

The police desk officers in said police stations did not at all mention that the uniformed police officer driving the police patrol car, with his companions inside it, were involved in the arrest of the still missing Phillip.

It is pity that the arrest and the eventual disappearance of Phillip happened during this time when the new normal is already in the city.

This new normal is a situation where the people are no longer outraged about the killings and disappearances of people. It is also a situation where the people would tend to sympathize with a friend who lost his or her dog due to natural causes, and not with the families of those killed by men riding-in-tandem.

This new normal became very apparent when we brought the parents of the missing Phillip during the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlungsod. The members of the SP treated them with very cold shoulders. Not even one city councilor approached them even just for the purpose of consoling them.

We also wrote General Santos City Mayor, Ronnel C. Rivera, to ask him to mobilize all coercive instruments of the state under his control and supervision to look for the missing Phillip, and to protect the witnesses.

A visit to the City Mayor’s Office a couple of days after this bared to us a shocking fact that the Mayor has not acted upon our request. This is quite saddening considering the urgency of the problem.

The most frustrating fact is this. Even the human rights networks where we belong have not commented on our reports, much more, acted upon our requests to secure the witnesses and drum up support for our very dangerous battle for the protection of human rights here in General Santos City.

But we will continue with our lonely battle here regardless of the cost this will entail. We cannot allow law enforcement agencies here to become a killing machine for this plunges society into danger.

We could only hope that the people will soon realize the danger that society will have to confront when one police officer is assuming the power of an accuser, prosecutor, judge and an executioner, rolled into one.

Law enforcers must be made to accept the fact that police works primarily involved respect and protection of individual’s civil and political rights as enshrined in the Bills of Rights of the Constitution.

It is the strict mandate of the 1987 Constitution for the state and its instruments to protect a hapless individual from their awesome powers to prevent our present civilization from pedaling back towards the barbaric era.

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Ben Sumog-oy is Action Officer of In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) in General Santos City]