Probe on killing of foreign drug suspect in Siargao starts

GENERAL LUNA, Siargao Island (MindaNews / 12 January) —  Investigation on the killing of a 32-year old Spanish businessman who reportedly resisted arrest during a drug buy-bust operation Wednesday dawn, has begun, with the Spanish Consul-General coordinating with the chief of police here.

Consul General Fernando Heredia Noguer on Friday visited the police station here to get more information on the killing of  Diego Bello Lafuente and on Saturday, the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) in Caraga region conducted an autopsy on his remains, upon the request of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

Police Captain Wise Vicente Panuelos, chief of police of General Luna Police Station (left) speaks with Consul-General Fernando Heredia Noguer of the Spanish Consulate General in Manila, on the killing of 32-year-old Spanish national, Diego Bello Lafuente, in an alleged shootout with police during a drug buy-bust raid at his residence Wednesday dawn in General Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte. Photo taken at General Luna Police Station on Friday, Junuary 10, 2020. MindaNews photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

Lafuente, who was allegedly selling cocaine, was killed Wednesday dawn in an alleged shootout with police operatives. He allegedly drew his caliber .45 gun and fired at police operatives who tried to arrest him. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Lafuente was the first European killed in the Philippine government’s war on drugs that started when Duterte assumed the Presidency on June 30, 2016.

Capt. Wise Vicente Panuelos, chief of police of General Lune,  told MindaNews  on Friday that Lafuente was the subject of a surveillance due to his alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade in the country’s surfing capital.

Prior to the raid, Panuelos said, they sent a poseur-buyer to Lafuente who allegedly sold cocaine.

The police chief said they have “solid evidence” against Lafuente and are now investigating if the cocaine found on the shores of San Isidro, Siargao Islands last year with an estimated value of half a billion pesos, could be traced to Lafuente.

Lafuente was also allegedly the subject of several complaints for alleged rape Panuelos said not a single rape complaint had been filed in court.

Panuelos acknowledged that illegal drugs have proliferated on the island due to the influx of tourists.

“We do have shabu, marijuana, cocaine and party drugs in the island and we don’t tolerate this illegal trade to proliferate, not under my watch,” he added.

Panuelos urged residents on the islands to remain vigilant to make the area free of the drug menace, and to ensure those involved will answer for their crime.

Several friends of Lafuente said they could not believe what had happened. “It’s an overkill and we can’t believe it,” said one.

But Panuelos reiterated they have “solid evidence.”

MindNews sought the Consul General for comment but he said his talk with the police chief was “highly confidential.”

“We will release statement once requested at our office,” he said.

The police chief of General Luna in Siargao Island, SUrigao del Norte, said they are monitoring the presence of illegal drugs in the tourist destination. SIargao is the country’s surfing capital. IMindaNews file photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

Panuelos said he is coordinating with the Spanish Embassy and other investigating bodies.

“This is the first time in the Philippines na cocaine ang involved in a buy-bust operation. Mostly kasi shabu and it’s so unfortunate that he fought with us. We didn’t want to kill him. The order was to arrest him. We gave him a warning to surrender but he shot us,” Panuelos said.

Results of the autopsy done by the SOCO on Friday have yet to be released.

In a statement on Friday, lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, CHR spokesperson, said the Commission “backs the demand of the family and friends of the victim to have an autopsy  of his body to help shed light on the incident and calls the PNP (Philippine National Police) to uphold due process and ensure the integrity of all the evidences.”

“Under its mandate to ensure the protection of the rights of the migrants residing in the Philippines and to conduct investigation of the cases of extra-judicial  killing,  the Commission will launch its own probe and will also look into reports that the trigger of the killing was the extortion attempt by members of the police which was not accommodated by the Spanish businessman,” de Guia added.

Panuelos denied the allegations of an extortion attempt. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)