Six policemen in the Philippine capital are now subjects of a criminal investigation due to their involvement in the tragic shooting of a teenager mistakenly identified as a murder suspect.
Jerhode Baltazar lost his life at a fishing village in suburban Manila after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head last Wednesday.
According to GMA News, Baltazar was on his way to go fishing when the police officers shot and killed him.
A friend who was with Baltazar on August 2 at noon said they were preparing their boat when a police officer ordered them to leave. Reportedly, they attempted to surrender, but the police opened fire and continued firing as Baltazar dove into the water.
Authorities have acknowledged that the decision to shoot him was a “lapse in judgement,” particularly since the 17-year-old was unarmed.
The circumstances leading to the misidentification remain unclear. The officers had been assigned to apprehend a suspect involved in a separate shooting incident that had also occurred in Navotas.
The six officers have been relieved from their duties and detained while a thorough investigation determines whether they may be charged with homicide. According to Philippine law, this offense carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
“They cannot invoke self-defense. They were unable to prove that the victim resisted arrest,” revealed Navotas City Police Chief Col. Allan Umipig during an interview with local television.
“We will give justice to Jemboy, and we will make sure the investigation will be fair and swift,” Maranan said in Filipino during a news briefing at Camp Crame.
The Past Administration
In recent years, Philippine law enforcement has faced accusations of extrajudicial killings, particularly those involving suspects associated with illegal drugs.
Former President Duterte, however, has staunchly defended his signature campaign as essential to safeguarding Filipinos from street-level crimes. Under the leadership of Duterte’s successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the anti-narcotics initiative has been scaled back.
Nevertheless, state actors have faced accusations of involvement in high-profile killings, such as the death of journalist Percival Mabasa in November 2022.