Police in the Philippines again appear responsible for the fatal beating of a man in their custody. Videos of the incident, which went viral, allegedly show Police Staff Sergeant Ronald Gamayon of the Southern Leyte provincial police beating Gilbert Ranes with his bare hands on a busy street in Maasin City. Ranes, a resident of nearby Macrohon town, was declared dead after being taken to the hospital.
In another video, three men in civilian clothes and a police officer in uniform are seen dragging Ranes into a police vehicle. A witness can be heard in the video saying Ranes was being treated “like a pig.” The Southern Leyte police released a medical report concluding that Ranes died from “severe head trauma.”
Gamayon, a police intelligence officer, was off-duty and wearing civilian clothes during the incident. Police Col. Hector Enage, director of the Southern Leyte Police Provincial Office, told Human Rights Watch that Gamayon was responding to complaints from neighbors that Ranes had stolen a mobile phone. The officer had no prior history of misconduct.
Enage said, “We’re not sure what made him decide to inflict injury on the victim.”
Officials are preparing charges against Gamayon, while four other police officers are being investigated for their role in the beating. “We are certain there were lapses,” Enage said, adding that they were gathering “strong evidence” from witnesses.
“The police should have just arrested him, brought him to a police station, and filed a case against him if he did steal something,” Ranes’ cousin, Jerome Paler, told Human Rights Watch. “We’re supposed to have laws.”
Police brutality is common in the Philippines, where police officers commit serious abuses against criminal suspects with impunity. Since the start of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” in 2016, the police have been linked to thousands of extrajudicial killings during drug raids. Many other suspects have also been subjected to torture or mistreatment. In November, a court convicted a police officer for the torture of Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman in 2018, two teenagers who were targeted as part of the anti-drug campaign.
Philippine authorities need to ensure that police officers are held accountable and that the laws prohibiting police abuse are upheld. Ranes’ family deserves justice, and a thorough and impartial investigation should be undertaken into his apparent wrongful death in police custody.