5 ex-cops in Jemboy slay freed

Mark Ernest Villeza - The Philippine Star
5 ex-cops in Jemboy slay freed
Police secure former police officers accused of killing Jemboy Baltazar during the promulgation of the case at the Navotas Regional Trial Court yesterday. At right, Baltazar’s mother, Rhoda, laments the light penalty.
The STAR / Ernie Peñaredondo

MANILA, Philippines — Five of six former Navotas policemen involved in the killing of Jemboy Baltazar were released from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Taguig on Wednesday.

“They have been detained for almost five months since their surrender last year. That has been counted in their prison term,” Navotas police chief Col. Mario Cortes told The STAR yesterday.

Executive M/Sgt. Roberto Balais Jr., S/Sgt. Nikko Esquilon, Cpl. Edmark Jake Blanco and Pat. Benedict Mangada were convicted only of illegal discharge of firearms and sentenced to four months in prison.

They were ordered released by the court, which said they have already served their sentence during the trial.

Another defendant, S/ Sgt. Antonio Bugayong, was acquitted.

In a decision promulgated on Tuesday, Judge Pedro Dabu Jr. of the Navotas Regional Trial Court Branch 276 found only one defendant, former S/Sgt. Gerry Maliban, guilty of killing the 17-year-old Baltazar on Aug. 2, 2023.

“The other police officers did not conspire with Maliban in shooting Jemboy.  They lacked the intention to kill the victim as shown by their acts of firing their guns in the water,” the court’s decision read.

Maliban was sentenced to up to six years in prison for the lesser offense of homicide.

The defendants were charged with murder.

Baltazar’s grandmother, Liza Tolentino, expressed disbelief and frustration over the court’s ruling.

“I don’t know what will happen to us. The policemen are now free. That’s what I’m afraid of,” she said.

Earlier, Baltazar’s mother Rhoda lamented that “Jemboy was shot like a dog.”

The Department of Justice has said it would appeal the lower court’s decision imposing lighter penalties on the dismissed police personnel.

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