Death certificate of arrested 'tambay' shows he died of physical trauma

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 21) — The death certificate of a detainee allegedly arrested for loitering showed he died of physical trauma in different parts of his body.

Signed by a medico-legal officer in Camp Crame, the document showed 22-year-old Genesis Argoncillo died due to multiple blunt force trauma on his back, head, chest, and upper extremities.

His sister Marilou also took photos of her brother's body while in the morgue, showing bruises on various parts of his body.

However, the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) said Argoncillo complained of shortness of breath on Tuesday and was rushed to the nearby hospital, but was pronounced dead. It cited that a certain Dr. Jethiel Fabon from Novaliches District Hospital certified that there were no external injuries on Argoncillo.

QCPD cited four other detainees who died in the past few days after complaining of difficulty in breathing, saying the facilities are heavily congested. It said 138 suspects are detained in the jail cell, when it's only supposed to house six persons.

PNP Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde supported the report of the QCPD that Argoncillo and some other inmates in QCPD Station 4 died due to congestion. He called on the Commission on Human Rights to go around jail cells to check on their conditions.

"That is what we want the Commission on Human Rights to do, to inspect all the detention cells para makita nila personally... This should be a concern for everybody," he said in a media briefing on Thursday.

Marilou said she was disappointed by Albayalde's statement.

"Puro po kasinungalingan yung nilahad. Ginawa pa niya ang pamilya kong sinungaling...Hustisya lang naman po sa kapatid namin ang hinihingi namin," she said.

Jail guard, station commander relieved

Meanwhile, National Capital Region Police chief Guillermo Eleazar relieved the station commander and the policeman on duty during the death of a detainee allegedly arrested for loitering.

"Pina-relieve ko na yung duty jail guard doon while waiting for the result of CIDU (Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit) investigation," Eleazar told CNN Philippines.

Inhumane treatment?

The QCPD also said the allegations of Argoncillo's family that he was inhumanely killed while in the custodial facility of the Novaliches Police Station were unfounded.

"We would like to make it clear there was no violent and inhumane treatment on Argoncillo contrary to the allegations of the family, citing a supposed broken rib and bruise marks on the cadaver," it said in a statement.

Marilou, however, recounted what Genesis told her about the conditions inside the jail cell.

"Sabi niya binubugbog nga kami. Sabi ko asan ang damit mo, bakit yan suot mo? Sabi niya, inarbor na nung gabing dumating kami. Inarbor na tapos binubugbog kami," she said.

The QCPD said their police officers follow strict protocol to ensure the rights of suspects and detainees are upheld.

It added it will further investigate the issue.

"To get to the bottom of the matter, and render justice where it is due, we are conducting a thorough investigation, including an autopsy if the Argoncillo family allows it, to determine the real cause of death. Should violence be established as the cause of death, we will investigate everyone involved, including the police officers on duty, until the truth comes out, and then prosecute the guilty to the full extent of the law," it said.

Not a 'tambay'

The QCPD also clarified Argoncillo was arrested for alarm and scandal on June 15, contrary to reports he was arrested during the police's intensified campaign against erring bystanders or "tambays."

"Nais naming linawin na ang pagkakahuli kay Genesis Argoncillo noong Hunyo 15, 2018 ay hindi sa pag implementa ng City Ordinances o Anti-Tambay sa Kalye operation. Siya ay inaresto dahil sa pagwawala nito at rumesponde lamang ang ating mga kapulisan," the QCPD said.

Marilou has denied claims his brother was unruly, saying he was waiting outside a sari-sari store when he was arrested.

The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, said it is investigating Argoncillo's case.

"Kasalukuyan nang iniimbestigahan ng CHR ang kaso ni Genesis Argoncillo para alamin ang mga posibleng pananagutan ng kapulisan sa insidenteng ito. Patuloy rin ang pagsasagawa ng CHR ng regular jail visitations sa iba't ibang lock-up cells sa bansa, alinsunod sa mandato nito," said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia.

De Guia added loitering is not a crime, and emphasized that police should respect the human rights of detainees.

"Ang masamang kalagayan sa mga preso, kabilang ang anumang kalabisan, kakulangan, at/o kapabayaan na magreresulta sa injuries, kabilang ang pagkamatay ng isang nakabilanggo, ay maaaring ituring na torture o cruel, inhumane, at degrading treatment o punishment, ayon sa RA 9745 at Convention against Torture na nilagdaan ng gobyerno," she said.