Cabbie allegedly robbed by Carl Arnaiz can’t be state witness – PAO

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In this file photo, taxi driver Tomas Bagcal shows reporters the mark of the wound on his right hand, allegedly inflicted by Carl Arnaiz when he held him up. BERNARD TESTA, INTERAKSYON

MANILA, Philippines — The taxi driver allegedly robbed by teenager Carl Angelo Arnaiz cannot be a state witness, the Public Attorney’s Office said.

PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, counsel of the families of Arnaiz and his friend Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman, said Wednesday that inconsistencies in the statements of Tomas Bagcal, 54, made him unqualified for enrollment in the Witness Protection Program.

Arnaiz, 19, and De Guzman, 14, both went missing in mid-August and turned up dead separately days later.

Police claimed Arnaiz was killed when he shot it out with officers looking to arrest him for robbing a cab, but subsequent investigations indicate he may have been executed. The body of De Guzman, on the other hand, was found later dumped in a creek, head wrapped in packing tape and with some 30 stab wounds in the body, in Gapan, Nueva Ecija.

The deaths of the two youth, which followed the killing of another teenager, Kian Lloy delos Santos, by Caloocan police reignited widespread anger over the thousands of death that have marked the Duterte government’s war on drugs.

“We’ve heard five versions of the story from him. In his first version, he said the robbers used a handgun and then it later became a knife. He also keeps on changing the actual time of the incident,” Acosta told reporters in chance interview at the Department of Justice, referring to Bagcal’s two affidavits and three separate interviews with media.

“How can you place him under the WPP if he is not telling the truth, and he is inconsistent with his statements?” Acosta asked.

“Real witnesses, no matter where the court is, no matter he is and when, he will testify and what he will say will not change at all,” she added.

The PAO chief said that the only consistent claim of Bagcal is that the killing of Arnaiz appeared to be “scripted.”

“But (his statements) on the incident’s time, and his claim that Carl had robbed him, the parents just cannot accept these statements because they are not true,” Acosta said.

Double murder charges have been filed against Bagcal and Caloocan City policemen for the deaths of Arnaiz and De Guzman.

The cabbie turned himself in to the National Bureau of Investigation last week after leaving the protective custody of civil society group Rise Up for Life and for Rights.

“He is already a respondent. He was charged as a co-respondent of the policemen because of what happened. He appears to have legitimized the claim that (Arnaiz) was merely a robber who was shot dead by police,” Acosta said. “It appears that there is a conspiracy here. He has to be placed as a respondent because he has a lot to explain.”

She said only the eyewitness known only as “Daniel,” who pointed probers to the place on the C-3 Road in Caloocan where Arnaiz was killed, should be enrolled in the WPP.

In his affidavit, Daniel said he saw how police dragged Carl Angelo from a patrol car and ordered him to kneel on the grass even as he held up his bound wrists and said “susuko na po ako (I am surrendering)” before he was shot dead. He also said there was a young boy in the car, believed to be De Guzman.

Acosta said Daniel’s statement was consistent with their forensic findings, which showed Arnaiz was kneeling when he was shot several times in the chest.

Acosta said they are now submitting the WPP application of Daniel to the Department of Justice.