MANILA – One of six policemen charged with the brutal killing of an old woman who had been in their custody for five days has committed suicide, the police regional chief of Eastern Visayas reported at the weekend.
Chief Supt. Gilbert Cruz said on Sunday that Police Office 3 Eleazar Terro allegedly committed suicide inside his house in Curva village in Ormoc City.
Terro is one of the police officers allegedly behind the killing of Lorna Soza, a suspect in stealing a smart phone in an Ormoc City mall last August 6.
Terro’s body was found hanging in his room tied with nylon ropes. The victim was brought to Ormoc District Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival by doctors.
“The alleged involvement of Terro and five other cops in the shooting of Soza is now under investigation. All of them were earlier relieved from their post,” Cruz said.
All police officers, except Terro, reported to the police regional command for restrictive custody, according to Cruz. A murder case was filed against them on Sept. 22.
“Only his family knows why he committed suicide, but they want to stay silent on this issue. We will also investigate the case,” Cruz added.
DSWD dismayed by case
Oct. 1 marked the start of the National Elderly Week, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is outraged that it should open with news of the brutal killing of Soza.
DSWD Assistant Secretary Aleli B. Bawagan on Monday expressed dismay over reports about the case.
Media reports said Soza, 60, was found wrapped in packaging tape in Kananga town, her face bearing a huge gunshot wound. Before she was found dead, she had been detained for five days – with no charges being filed – at the Ormoc Police Station 1 after she was arrested for the theft of a mobile phone at an Ormoc city mall on August 6. Reports said the old woman was taken out of her detention cell at dawn, and bundled off into a police car and was not seen again until her body was found.
Reports had said that when she was caught with the allegedly stolen cellphone worth P13,900, Soza sought forgiveness, and offered to pay for the phone with all the cash in her wallet – P10,300. Police refused to release her, however, so she remained under detention despite the fact that no complaint was filed against her.
“This is most disturbing news that an elderly Filipino was allegedly executed for stealing a cellphone. That this report should come out during the nation’s annual commemoration of Elderly Filipino Week (EFW) makes it even more upsetting. We have no more means to determine Soza’s reasons for stealing the cellphone, but whatever her reasons were, there is no justifying what was done to her afterwards. The reports about her killing are shocking,” said Assistant Secretary Bawagan.
“We are celebrating Elderly Filipino Week this first week of October with the intent to put the spotlight on social concerns and issues faced by our senior citizens. Our call is for the whole of government to unite in efforts to support the elderly and to help them cope with the challenges created by their age, poverty, and other negative social circumstances. We are greatly dismayed whenever we encounter reports of how elderly Filipinos are abused or worse, killed under the most suspicious circumstances. What we want is a society that is more compassionate to the elderly, and this compassion should extend to those who are found to have broken the law.”
Bawagan said the DSWD Field Office VIII in Tacloban will be told to put together a report on the case of Soza and to determine the status of her surviving family, and see if there is any need to help them.
In the meantime, in his message to the DSWD as it observes Elderly Filipino Week 2017, no less than Pres. Rodrigo Duterte himself said that society should “show appreciation for our countrymen who are in their twilight years.”
“I laud your (DSWD’s) initiative to recognize the significant contributions of our elderly in nation-building. They possess the resilience and wisdom gained from a multitude of life experiences. Their valuable insights serve as important guides on how we will shape the future of our country,” he wrote in his message dated October 1.