PNP: Vigilante group operating in the guise of drug war

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Philippine National Police chief Roland Dela Rosa presented Thursday morning three members of an alleged vigilante group in Tondo, Manila responsible for the killing of a 16-year-old boy.

Thirty-three-year-old garbage collector Manuel Murillo, 33-year-old Marco Morallos, and 42-year-old Alfredo Alejan, all residents of Tondo, are members of Confederate Sentinel Group, a civilian volunteer organization that police say turned vigilante.

Dela Rosa said the gun-for-hire group was involved in drug trade, robbery, hold-up, extortion and payoff collection.

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Manila Police District chief Joel Coronel said the group mainly targets rival organizations.

A certain Ricardo Villamonte, the group leader, allegedly ordered the suspects to kill thieves and robbers. Their 16-year-old victim was accused of stealing. The boy was found lifeless in a sack floating in Isla Puting Bato, also in Tondo. The victim's mother said her son was abducted last January 1.

The suspects are also linked to the death of three other men, including alleged drug suspects.

Dela Rosa said this dispels claims that vigilante killings are committed by the police.

"This is a solution of some of the deaths under investigation (DUI) cases or the ones termed by the media as EJK, extrajudicial killings, which (is) presumably (attributed to the police)," he said during the media briefing.

As of January 9, 2017, there were more than 3,600 DUI cases during the Duterte administration.

Dela Rosa said the vigilante group operated two months after the administration began its drug war.

"Alam nila na maraming namamatay kaya sumasabay na rin sila. Sumasakay sila sa sitwasyon," he said.

[Translation: They know a lot of people are being killed, that's why they went with it.]

The suspects will also be charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Civilian volunteer organizations help the police in peacekeeping and information gathering, Dela Rosa said, but are not allowed to bear firearms.