Fortun visited by police after findings on deaths of Jemboy Baltazar, Kian delos Santos

August 14, 2023 - 4:46 PM
Forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun examines the exhumed remains of Constantino de Juan in a morgue at the University of the Philippines Manila, Manila, Philippines, March 25, 2022. Picture taken March 25, 2022. A December 2016 police report says de Juan was shot in a police drug operation. His initial death certificate said three bullets killed him. The second, issued days later, lists acute myocardial infarction, or heart attack, and hypertension. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Veteran forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun shared that she was visited by the police after releasing the findings on the death of two teenagers in Navotas and Caloocan.

The forensic expert on Sunday informed her followers that law enforcers from the two cities went to her office on Friday, August 11 regarding the cases of Jerhode “Jemboy” Baltazar and Kian delos Santos.

Baltazar was a 17-year-old who got shot in the head by the Navotas police on August 2 for what the cops said was a case of “mistaken identity.”

Delos Santos, meanwhile, was another 17-year-old who was killed by Caloocan police in the early days of the Duterte administration’s bloody “War on Drugs” campaign in 2017.

Fortun conducted an autopsy on Baltazar’s remains and reportedly established that the minor died due to brain injuries caused by a gunshot with drowning as a “contributory cause”

She also performed a re-autopsy on Delos Santos this year and found a bullet lodged in his neck, a finding that was not present in past examinations of the Philippine National Police and the Public Attorney’s Office.

“Btw [by the way], dinalaw na ako sa ofc [office] ng Navotas police for Jemboy’s autopsy, at Caloocan police for Kian’s bullet,” she posted on the X (formerly Twitter) platform on August 13.

Fortun works at the University of the Philippines Manila, where she heads its pathology department.

“Oo na, you know where to find me. Just putting this out there for whatever protection this disclosure could offer,” she added in her now-viral post.

“If something happens to me, mag-iingay kayo, ha. I take some comfort in that, thanks,” Fortun said to the public in another post.

On Monday, she shared that she was visited by the “prosecutor’s office.”

“Wasn’t it your job to investigate? Why harass me for my findings??” the forensic pathologist wrote in another post on August 14.

“Friday, nagpunta ang police, today prosecutor’s [office]. Do you know what it takes to do a forensic autopsy? On top of all the other work I do?” Fortun added.

“The requesting party is the family. The report, when ready, goes to them,” she further said, referring to the Baltazar family.

Reports said that the police also visited the family of Baltazar to obtain new statements. The family found it concerning, according to ABS-CBN News.

Meanwhile, the police said that their recent visit to Fortun’s office was to remind her that the fiscal already needs the result of the autopsy of Baltazar’s remains.

Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos also said the autopsy would be helpful in determining whether the cases against the Navotas police involved would escalate from homicide to murder.

He added that more cops could face charges, depending on the investigation.

Fortun previously said that the manner of Baltazar’s killing was a homicide. She also said that the teen could have survived if he had not fallen on the river.

Baltazar’s case 

Reports said the Navotas teenager was about to go on his first fishing trip after two months on August 2 when members of the Navotas police arrived.

The rattled teen jumped off the boat and was shot by the cops.

Baltazar’s elder sister, Jessa, told Rappler that her brother did not jump off the boat. She said that they fired a warning shot at the river and then shot her brother and his friend.

Meanwhile, a friend who was with the victim said that they were preparing their boat when a cop told them to get off. They reportedly tried to give themselves up, but the police kept shooting. This prompted Baltazar to dive into the water.

At that time, the Navotas cops were looking for suspects involved in a shooting incident at a village. They had received information that one of the suspects had allegedly boarded a boat. It later turned out that it was not Baltazar.

Six Navotas cops, including the ground commander and assistant commander of Navotas City Police Station Substation 4, have been charged with criminal and administrative cases.

Abalos condemned the incident and said that what the police did on the scene was “extremely wrong” in terms of the latter’s operational procedures.

“Magkakaroon kami ng meeting with the PNP leadership at pag-uusapan namin kung anong dapat gawin dito. We will revisit all of their modes of procedure at ‘yung tinatawag na command responsibility, kung up to what level (ang liability) para hindi na maulit ito,” he previously said.

Delos Santos’ case 

Delos Santos was among the first casualties of the Duterte administration’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

The teenager’s killing in 2017 was caught on video footage, where he was spotted being punched, dragged, and made to kneel when Caloocan cops were conducting a one-time big-time drug operation.

His death triggered widespread protests against then-President Rodrigo Duterte‘s violent campaign against illegal drugs.

It also resulted in the sentence of three Caloocan cops to reclusion perpetual or 20 to 40 years in prison without eligibility for parole.

Delos Santos’ case was the only known murder conviction against police who carried out drug operations during Duterte’s time.

Last February, Fortun said that the authorities had conducted an incomplete and “superficial” autopsy on the teen’s cadaver, adding that they only based their conclusions on a “superficial cut” on his body.

She also discovered a bullet in his neck that went unnoticed by the autopsies conducted by PNP and PAO before.

According to Fortun, it “demonstrates how awful our investigations are.”

Government records show that 6,252 individuals were killed in the drug war from June 2016 to May 2022.

However, rights groups believe it is just a fraction of the actual number.

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