The small, closely-knit, and deeply religious community of Maasin City woke up in collective shock as an off-duty police officer was captured on video assaulting a suspected thief in custody.

On Tuesday, December 13, no less than the regional police director announced the filing of a homicide case against Staff Sergeant Ronald Gamayon, 36, who arrested Gilbert Ranes in relation to a theft incident at about 7:30 pm of December 9 at Barangay Mantahan, Maasin.
“Rest assured that this Police Regional Office will closely monitor this case or similar incidents involving officers under my watch. Here in Eastern Visayas, we do not tolerate misfits among our rank and file,” B/Gen. Rommel Francisco Marbil said in a statement.
“We always see to it that truth prevails,” the police regional director added.

Monsignor Oscar Cadayona, vicar general of the Diocese of Maasin, also expressed his deep concern over the reported mauling incident that led to the death of the victim.

“Assuming that it was really true, the case should have been handled in a different way to uphold the dignity of the suspect who is a human being,” he said.

He disclosed that the local church and the police in the province has a program dubbed as ‘Give change a chance,’ which is not only for those who used illegal drugs but also for people who because of circumstances, commit all sorts of crimes.

However, it was cut off during the pandemic.

“It’s not restored yet,” Cadayona said.

In the information released by the Police Regional Office, it identified Gamayon, as an officer assigned to the Provincial Intelligence Unit (PIU) of the Southern Leyte Police Provincial Office (SLPPO) to be behind on the killing of Ranes, who is from the neighboring town of Macrohon.

SLPPO director Colonel Hector Enage said he and the entire police force in the province were “ in sorrow over what happened.”

In a press briefing, Enage also extended his sympathy to the victim’s family.

“It is very clear that there were lapses in police operational procedures (as) someone died. Someone must be accountable, must be liable,” he said.

Enage immediately launched an investigation after learning about the incident.
He also said that some locals grabbed and beat Ranes after his victim called for help.
According to the police regional command, Gamayon has been placed under restrictive custody of SLPPO.

Gamayon’s issued service firearm was already turned-in to the SLPPO supply officer.
City Mayor Nacional Mercado expressed his outrage on the incident as he appealed to the police to hasten their probe.

“After having reviewed video footage of the incident, we strongly condemn the unnecessary show and use of force in any form especially carried out by agents of the state imbued with constitutional duties to protect the public,” he said.

The mayor called concerned agencies and the top officials of the PNP “to seriously look into this transgression, not only those agents of the state but also those other persons responsible for the death of Mr. Gilbert Ranes.”

Purported videos of the arrest and succeeding incidents that went viral on social media and brought shock to the residents showed a man in plain clothing holding an object and assaulting Ranes while he bent over his body on the side of the road amid motorists passing by.

In another video, an unidentified man was heard saying “tiwasan na (finish him off)” in the local dialect.

Several people wearing black shoes were seen around, and a foot rolled Ranes’ body on the floor.

A video also showed Ranes being dragged by men in plain clothing and an officer in uniform into what appeared like a police vehicle.

Commenters on social media who saw the alleged videos of the incidents said the suspect was treated “like a pig.”

According to the medical report released by SLPPO, Ranes died from “severe head trauma.”
Ranes also had a periorbital hematoma on both eyes, contusions and multiple abrasions mid-anterior chest, hematoma and swelling of the right temporal area of the face, multiple abrasions on the right extremity posterior forearm, multiple abrasions on left and right cheeks and face, and multiple abrasions of the right substernal area.

Meanwhile, four responding officers of Maasin City Police Station were reassigned to the Provincial Office effective December 12 relative to the incident.

Marbil identified the policemen as Staff Sergeant Ricky Mantos, Staff Sergeant Jovan Alvarez, Corporal Russell Salar, and Patrolman Rolando America.

“The Southern Leyte Provincial Internal Affair Service (SLPIAS) has taken cognizance and initiated a moto proprio investigation pertaining to the administrative aspect of the case,” the police regional command said.

Calls for justice
Rep. Christopherson “Coco” Yap(2nd district) also commended the SLPPO and Enage “for responding to this matter with dispatch and transparency, for bringing those responsible for this act of inhumanity to justice, and for reassuring the public that our PNP will not hesitate to prosecute even their own.”

“I strongly condemn the violent killing of fellow Southern Leyteño, Gilbert Ranes, and express my condolences to his family and friends, especially his children. This kind of brutality has no place in a society that values human life and dignity,” the lawmaker said in a statement.

As this developed, Marbil ordered the creation of a special investigation task group “Ranes” for the “thorough investigation” of the cases.

“The power to enforce the law does not give one the power to be judge, jury, and executioner. I find the official police report wanting of details as to the background of his arrest and why a suspected thief ended up in the morgue,” said lawyer Bendever Gerona, who was among the first to publicly condemn the incident.

In a statement posted on his social media account, Gerona called for a “full-blown investigation on this matter and for the prosecution of all those responsible for the death of this suspect, if there is any.”

“If it is to be believed that the suspect has been apprehended by bystanders, and perhaps beaten by them, then there is all the more reason to handle the suspect in a much more humane way than what is shown in the video clip. Di man tawn na baboy (He was not a pig),” said Gerona.

Meanwhile, Carlos Conde, senior researcher at the Asia Division of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, maintained that “police brutality is common in the Philippines, where police officers commit serious abuses against criminal suspects with impunity.”

He cited the case of a police officer who was convicted by a court in November 2022 for the torture of Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman, two teenagers who were targeted as part of the government’s anti-drug campaign, in 2018.

“Philippine authorities need to ensure that police officers are held accountable and that the laws prohibiting police abuse are upheld,” said Carlos in dispatch released on Tuesday.
“Ranes’ family deserves justice, and a thorough and impartial investigation should be undertaken into his apparent wrongful death in police custody,” he added.

Ranes was buried on Thursday (Dec.14) in a public cemetery in Macrohon town.