Philippine police officer jailed for killing teens in rare drug war conviction
A Philippine police officer has been found guilty of killing two teenagers during former president Rodrigo Duterte's drug war, court documents obtained by AFP Tuesday showed, a rare conviction of one of the crackdown's enforcers.
During his six-year term, which ended in June 2022, Duterte openly ordered police to shoot dead drug suspects if officers' lives were in danger.
More than 6,200 people died in the anti-narcotics campaign, according to official figures, but rights groups estimate the actual figure was in the tens of thousands.
Only three police officers had previously been convicted for killing a suspect during the crackdown, which sparked an investigation at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
On March 1, a Manila court ruled that Jefrey Perez was guilty of murdering Reynaldo De Guzman, 14, and Carl Arnaiz, 19, in 2017, according to a copy of the verdict shared by the public attorney's office.
Perez was sentenced on the same day to a minimum of 20 years behind bars.
He was already serving a lengthy jail sentence after being found guilty by a different court in November of torturing the two teenagers.
His co-accused, police officer Ricky Arquilita, died during the first trial. Both denied the charges.
De Guzman and Arnaiz were last seen together on August 17, 2017.
A trial witness said he saw one of the teenagers, Arnaiz, exit a parked police vehicle with his handcuffed hands raised, shouting "I will surrender" before the officers shot him.
The body of De Guzman was found weeks later north of Manila. It had dozens of stab wounds.
President Ferdinand Marcos, who succeeded Duterte, has vowed to keep pursuing the drug war but focus on prevention and rehabilitation.
However, rights groups say the killings have continued under his watch.
The ICC said in January it would resume its probe into the drug war because its pre-trial chamber was "not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court's investigations".
Manila has appealed the decision.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher Carlos Conde said while he welcomed the Philippine court ruling, the rarity of the conviction showed the justice system was "broken".
"This is the second drug war (murder) conviction out of thousands of similar cases," Conde said.
"This is... proof that the ICC needs to come in."
In 2018, three police officers were convicted of killing 17-year-old student Kian delos Santos in a Manila alley.
Police said he was a drug courier who fired at them while resisting arrest. However, CCTV footage showed two of officers dragging the unarmed boy moments before he was shot dead.