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Philippine police officer jailed for killing teens in ‘drug war’

Ex-officer found guilty of murdering two teenagers aged 14 and 19 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

A Philippines police officer has been found guilty of the murder of two teenagers in a rare conviction linked to the country’s so-called “war on drugs,” in which former President Rodrigo Duterte urged officers to take out drug suspects, local authorities reported. media.

More than 6,200 people have died in the bloody anti-narcotics campaign during Duterte’s six-year term, which ended in 2022, according to official figures.

A 2021 United Nations report found that 8,663 people had been killed in anti-drug operations, while the Philippine Human Rights Commission and local human rights organizations believe the death toll could be as high as three times that number.

Ex-police officer Jefrey Perez was found guilty on March 1 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 2017 murders of Reynaldo De Guzman, 14, and Carl Arnaiz, 19, according to local media reports on Tuesday citing court documents.

Perez was already serving a lengthy prison sentence after a court found him guilty of torturing and planting evidence on the same teens in November. A co-defendant, police officer Ricky Arquilita, died during the first trial. Both denied the allegations. Perez was also ordered to pay compensation to the “families of the victims for the deaths of their sons,” local media outlet Rappler reported.

Only three police officers have previously been found guilty of a single murder linked to the ex-president’s drug war campaign, which is under investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The murdered teens in the Perez case were last seen together on August 17, 2017.

A witness testified in court that he saw a police car parked on the side of a road and saw a handcuffed Arnaiz step out of the vehicle with his hands raised shouting “I will surrender” before being shot by the police officers. De Guzman’s body was later found north of the capital Manila, with dozens of stab wounds.

“Arnaiz and De Guzman, who were neighbors in Cainta Rizal, decided to grab a bite to eat on the evening of August 18, 2017, but did not return home,” local news outlet BusinessMirror reported.

“Ten days later, their bodies were found in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, with Arnaiz suffering gunshot wounds while De Guzman was stabbed 30 times,” it reported.

Current Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has pledged to continue the drug war, but with an emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation rather than murder.

Human rights groups say the killings have continued.

The ICC said in January it would resume its investigation because it was “not satisfied” with the Philippines’ handling of the case.

Duterte announced in March 2018 that he would withdraw the Philippines from the ICC and would not cooperate with any investigation.

However, the ICC was still authorized to investigate crimes committed until March 2019, when the Philippines’ withdrawal from the court became official.