More than 5 years later, cop found guilty of murdering teens Carl-Kulot in ‘drug war’ op

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Kristine Joy Patag – Philstar.com

March 13, 2023

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 6:32 p.m.) — A Navotas court has found former policeman Jeffrey Perez guilty of killing teenagers Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman whose deaths in 2017 raised doubts about the Duterte administration’s bloody “war on drugs.”

The Navotas Regional Trial Court Branch 287 found Perez guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the murders of Arnaiz and De Guzman. He was sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years in prison, “without eligibility of parole.”

Judge Romana Lindayag Del Rosario also ordered Perez to pay a total of P390,000 to the family of Arnaiz for actual damages, civil indemnity, moral damages and exemplary damages.

Perez was also told to pay P300,000 to de Guzman’s family.

This is the second known conviction of police officers of murder in the “war on drugs” campaign of the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte, although the case of the two teenagers took longer than five years to resolve.

Court’s ruling

Perez had a fellow police officer as co-accused in the case, but Patrolman Ricky Arquilita died in prison of suspected viral hepatitis B in April 2019.

Perez and Arquilita were accused of beating up the teenagers before killing them in 2017.

Arnaiz went missing on the night of August 17, 2017. His body was found 11 days later at a funeral home in Caloocan City. Police claimed he had robbed a taxi driver and fired back at responding policemen, prompting the authorities to shoot him.

Almost a month later, De Guzman’s parents were informed that their son’s body was found floating in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija.

Based on the certificates of death presented in the case, Arnaiz suffered five gunshot wounds, four of which were fatal and resulted in his death. De Guzman meanwhile bore 28 stab wounds in various parts of the body.

“In the instant case, all the elements for the crime of murder are present,” the ruling read.

The court also said that Perez himself admitted in his testimony that their operation and shooting encounter resulted in Arnaiz’s death. The dismissed cop also failed to testify, “in great detail and depth,” the supposed connection of the gun found beside Arnaiz or where it came from.

Torture, planting of evidence conviction

In November 2022, the Caloocan City Regional Trial Court Branch 122 found Patrolman Perez guilty for torture of Arnaiz and De Guzman and was sentenced to reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years of imprisonment.

He was also found guilty of Planting of Evidence under RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and RA 10591 or Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act in the case of Arnaiz.

A report by The STAR newspaper in 2021 reported that pandemic has stalled the murder trial over the killings of the two teenagers. This was unlike the murder trial involving 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, which concluded in November 2018 or after a speedy year-long trial with the conviction of three police officers. — with reports from The STAR/Marc Jayson Cayabyab