4 convicted cops in Jemboy Baltazar case out of detention

On the same day when the Navotas Regional Trial Court (RTC) handed down the verdict for the killing of Jemboy Baltazar, five convicted cops involved in the case walked free from detention upon receiving lesser penalties.

Out of the six cops charged with murder, only Police Staff Sergeant Gerry Maliban was convicted of homicide, a lesser crime punishable by four to six years imprisonment.

Four other cops, namely Roberto Balais, Nikko Esquilon, Edmard Blanco and Benedict Mangada were only found guilty of “illegal discharge of firearm” and were each given four months of prison time.

According to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the four police officers have already been released after the court allowed their preventive imprisonment since October to be credited as part of their sentence.

The remaining cop, Police Staff Sergeant Antonio Bugayong, was acquitted.

Jemboy, who was a victim of “mistaken identity,” was killed in a supposed “follow-up operation” in August 2023 in Navotas City, where he and his friend were preparing to go fishing until police officers surrounded and rained gunshots at them in broad daylight.

The teenager’s body was also reportedly left in the water for about three hours before the police allowed the victim’s family to retrieve Jemboy.

Justice not served

Jemboy’s mother, Rodaliza, turned emotional while speaking to the media after the promulgation on Monday, Feb. 27, saying she feels her son’s death has gone in vain.

“Parang hindi po siya napatay. Parang wala lang kasi isa lang [pulis] po ‘yung na-convict,” she lamented.

In a separate press conference, Rodaliza added they would be happy to see all involved cops in prison.

“Kung makukulong po sila, siguro sobrang saya ko na po dahil makakamtan na po ng anak ko ‘yung hustisya,” she said.

The decision comes more than six months after the Philippine National Police (PNP) filed a case for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide against the six police officers that went to trial.

Weeks later, the human rights and alternative lawyering group Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) filed an amended complaint, elevating the charge to murder and including 13 other police officers.

The warrants of arrest issued by the Navotas RTC, however, were only for the six cops listed in the case filed by PNP. 

In a statement, IDEALS said Jemboy’s case stems from years of sidelining extrajudicial killings, which emboldened institutions to disregard human rights and the rule of law.

“Justice remains elusive for cases of violence perpetrated by the state, the duty-bearing institution tasked to protect our human rights. While legal protocol dictates respect for the decision … this will not deter our resolve to ensure that justice is served,” their statement read.

The trial spanned for more than five months after a series of hearings and investigations, including a Senate probe on the killing.

with reports from Gabbie Senatin