Skip to main content

Working justice system? - iDEFEND

Jemboy Baltazar

Saturday, 2 March 2024

A Navotas Regional Trial Court found Police SSgt. Gerry Maliban and four other policemen guilty of homicide and illegal discharge of weapons, resulting in the death of 17-year old Jemboy Baltazar. Another cop was acquitted. Maliban is sentenced to jail for up to six years while four of the convicted have been released for “time served”.

In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend) finds the court decision as short-changing the family's desire for justice and accountability. Jemboy died as a result of a so-called hot pursuit operation where the police opened fire on a defenceless civilian, later said to be a case of mistaken identity by authorities. Instead of offering relief, the sentence revives the horrors of Jemboy’s family.

Is the court sending the signal to criminals in the police force that they will be punished with a slap on the wrist, while showing families of their victims that this is Marcos Jr.’s brand of justice? Is this the government’s famously touted “working justice system”, that it urges families of victims of EJKs to trust?

Philippine courts have a crucial role to play to combat impunity. Until the courts decisively send a strong message that the rule of law prevails, our security forces, who have become untouchable during the six years of Duterte’s war on drugs and war on terror, will consider them only a short nuisance in a window dressing display of a justice system.