QC Police chief expects more suspects to be charged in Genesis Argoncillo's death

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 22) — Quezon City's top cop said he expects more suspects might be charged in the death of Genesis "Tisoy" Argoncillo, who was mauled to death while in police custody.

Speaking to CNN Philippines Friday, Quezon City Police District (QCPD) director Chief Superintendent Joselito Esquivel Jr. said, "There's no means for that guy to defend himself. It was one against, probably many. As of now, we only have two. There could be more because from the testimonies, para bang pinagtulungan. In Tagalog...kinuyog. Pinagtulungan [it seems like he was ganged up on]."

Agoncillo died after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a roundup of loiterers violating city ordinances.

 

Local authorities on Friday filed murder charges against two of Argoncillo's fellow detainees.

Argoncillo's family said he was arrested June 15 by policemen who found him in front of a store without a shirt on, in violation of a city ordinance. But police officials contradicted the family's account, saying the 25-year-old Argoncillo was arrested for alarm and scandal after being reported by concerned residents as drunk and causing trouble.

Quezon City Police District (QCPD) director Chief Superintendent Joselito Esquivel told a news conference on Friday that murder charges were filed against Richard Bautista and Justin Mercado, the suspects in Argoncillo's killing. He said the two men were pinpointed by three detainees, who have issued testimonies.

Police earlier said Argoncillo complained of shortness of breath and was rushed to a hospital near his detention center in Novaliches, Quezon City, where he was declared dead on Tuesday, four days after his arrest.

But Esquivel told reporters a deeper investigation showed that Argoncillo died after being beaten by his fellow inmates.

He said an "internal conflict" can be expected in the overcrowded detention cell where Agoncillo was held. At the time of Agoncillo's death, there were 135 detainees in the cell meant to hold 40 people, he added.

"Murder (charges) will be filed against them because of the use of superior strength. For those policemen in my command who were remiss in their duty, they are being relieved and investigated," Esquivel said.

Five personnel of the QCPD Station 4 — the station commander, jailer, staff duty officer, shift patrol supervisor, and desk officer — have been relieved from their posts pending administrative investigation.

A criminal investigation is still being conducted to find the cause of the killing, while an administrative investigation will look into possible lapses on the part of police officers on duty when Argoncillo died.

More questions surrounding Tisoy's death

QCPD on Thursday morning said Argoncillo died minutes after complaining of shortness of breath. They also said there were no external injuries on his body, citing the findings of a doctor from the hospital where the detainee was rushed. But according to his death certificate, he died after suffering "severe blunt trauma" in different parts of his body.

Esquivel on Friday confirmed Argoncillo complained of shortness of breath because he was beaten up on the night before he died. He said the bruises only showed up hours after the police conducted a more thorough investigation.

"We did not change our tune. We reported it as it came to us," he said.

Esquivel said thorough investigations have to be conducted into the contradicting reports surrounding the nature of his arrest and death.

Despite the controversy surrounding the police's intensified drive against erring loiterers, he urged his subordinates to keep doing the work Duterte ordered them to impose.

"I have more positive feedback than negative. Huwag kayo manghina. Tuloy ang laban sa ayaw magpa-disiplina," he said.

Metro Manila Police Chief Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar on Thursday said over 8,000 have been arrested for violating different city ordinances. The police arrested 2,981 bystanders from June 13 to June 18, but the number ballooned to 8,015 in a span of three days. He said the common ordinances violated are drinking liquor in public, smoking in public pursuant of an executive order, loitering on the streets half naked, illegal gambling, and urinating in public.

Authorities reiterated the police cannot arrest loiterers without violations because the law against vagrancy was decriminalized in 2012.