Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the death of a 17 year-old boy after being mistakenly identified and shot by police in Navotas

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the death of a 17 year-old boy after being mistakenly identified and shot by police in Navotas

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expresses grave concern over the death of a 17 year-old boy who was allegedly shot by officers of the Navotas City police after being mistakenly identified as an escaping suspect.

In pursuance of our constitutional mandate, CHR is already conducting an independent motu proprio investigation into the incident. The investigation seeks to ensure accountability for the alleged arbitrary deprivation of life of a boy committed by State agents, particularly by six police officers of Navotas City police.

According to reports on the incident, the concerned police officers were at Brgy. NBBS Kaunlaran, Navotas City on 2 August 2023 for a pursuit operation in response to a murder incident. The suspect escaped but the police officers received information that the suspect was allegedly hiding in a boat. Arriving at the location, they chanced upon 17 year-old Jerhode Jemboy Baltazar with a companion on board a boat. The police allegedly commanded Baltazar and his companion to surrender, but Baltazar jumped into the river then the police fired at him. The boy received fatal shots, then the police later realised he was not the subject of their operation.

CHR notes the recent actions of the Philippine National Police directing an internal investigation into the alleged killing. PNP reported that a police executive master sergeant, three staff sergeants, two corporals, and one patrolman involved in the shooting are now facing administrative and homicide charges. The involved police officers are also now disarmed and detained.

As our own independent investigation pursues the truth behind the incident, CHR stresses the importance of upholding the right to life. Lapses leading to the curtailment of a person’s life is a grave and irreversible violation of a human right.

We urge the PNP to remind their officers on the appropriate use of force as comprehensively discussed in their own manual of operations. The provision on the force continuum, in particular, reminds police officers to apply “reasonable responses commensurate to the level of suspect/law offender’s resistance to effect compliance, arrest, and other law enforcement actions.” In the same manual, they are also reminded that, “[i]n the lawful performance of duty, a police officer shall use necessary and reasonable force to accomplish his/her mandated tasks of enforcing the law and maintaining peace and order.” And that even in the use of a lethal approach as a last resort, the expected police response is to use conventional weapons only to prevent or repel unlawful aggression and immobilise the suspect; hence, police officers are expected to avoid hitting the head or other vital parts of the body, which could be fatal.

CHR hopes that the PNP will continue to live up to its motto “to serve and protect” as a duty-bearer for the rights of the people, especially the weak, vulnerable, and marginalised members of the society.

CHR extends its condolences to the family and friends of the victim. And we hope that current investigations result in justice and accountability, as well as necessary reforms within the PNP to prevent similar incidents from happening. One death is one too many.