ABS-CBN's Joey Villarama threatened for QC 'shootout' coverage
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-03-01

Just last Thursday, Your Chair Wrecker wrote about the serious threat to the life of a fellow journalist — Ramon “Mon” Tulfo.

After reading that column, Lito Villarama, a friend and former Ateneo classmate, emailed me through our E-group to seek help regarding the threat to the life of his own son.

Let me share with you Lito’s February 26 email, as follows.

“Dear Billy,

I write in connection with your article on Mon Tulfo and on behalf of my son Joey, who is now in the same predicament as Mr. Tulfo. My son Joey, an ABS-CBN TV reporter, covered the alleged shootout at EDSA between the Quezon City Police Anti-Carnap Unit, the Highway Patrol Group and suspected car thieves on February 17, 2009.

The alleged shootout, filmed and reported by my son, showed what appeared to be otherwise. The incident and the video footage have outraged the Commission on Human Rights which has already launched an investigation.

Pending the result of the fact finding investigation, 30 members of the Anti-Carnap Unit and the Highway Patrol Group have been suspended from their duties. Because of this, certain police officials have vented their ire on my son who was just performing his duty. As a result, my son has not been able to come home since the time of the incident and has been assigned a bodyguard 24 hours a day by ABS-CBN.

In this light and on behalf of my son, who like you is only after the truth, I would like to request for your advice on this matter. My warm regards.

Lito Villarama”

Lito and your Chair Wrecker talked yesterday and he confirmed the threat to the life of his son Joey. Lito learned about the threat from Joey’s media colleagues who also named the hostile PNP officials who made veiled threats to his son.

Indeed, there is no denying that the QC (Quezon City) “shootout” appears more like a rubout based on what the ABS-CBN camera captured. CHR (Commission on Human Rights) Chair Leila de Lima’s “Oh my God” reaction when she saw the video of the QC shooting incident says it all. She knew immediately that there is something very wrong and most foul and that the incident is not what the police are making it appear to be.

Who knows how this would have been officially reported by the PNP (Philippine National Police) had Joey Villarama and his team not been on the scene to report and capture it on video?

And the way the PNP officials are starting to sound lately, a whitewash seems to be in the offing. PNP officials have been talking about the QC shooting incident matter-of-factly as a “shootout” — making it appear that the police violations were merely confined to lapses in procedure and overkill.

That presumption effectively excludes the angle that the video and Joey Villarama’s on-the-scene report strongly suggested — a rubout. The Villarama on-the-spot report and the video raised some very disturbing questions that tend to contest the police claim that it was a shootout.

How come the driver was able to flee the scene and avoid being killed? How come the victims’ car was parked properly and the hand brake was engaged? Does that not suggest that these people were not fleeing at all? When one parks a car and engages the hand brake, does that not mean that there is no inclination to flee or fight?

How come all the shots were directed at the car passengers and not the driver? How many cop shows will you have to watch to figure out that in order to prevent criminals from fleeing, the cops should incapacitate the driver first? Does this not suggest that the targets were just the passengers and not the driver who was allowed to go Scot-free?

How does one justify all that firepower the police used when the crime scene showed only one rusty revolver inside the victims’ vehicle? Doesn’t the overkill suggest the likelihood that these passengers were meant to be silenced and not to be tried in court where they could perhaps sing some very embarrassing songs?

An ABS-CBN forensic resource person observed that the QC shooting incident was very similar to another one in Ortigas, expressing concern that overkill was becoming more like a PNP standard operating procedure.

Another ABS-CBN resource person — this one a known member of the carnap syndicate — expressed surprise on TV Patrol last Friday that the victims were people he does not know.

Identified as ‘Mario’ in the interview, with his face blurred on the video, he said that the members of the carnap syndicates know one another. Mario claimed that carnap syndicates know one another because they all see each other in their “place of work” which is usually Quezon City. He elaborated that QC was their favorite carnap location because the bars there attracted the owners of expensive vehicles.

Mario even stated that as far as he knows the carnap syndicates pay protection money to top PNP officials. Mario even claimed that he knew who these corrupt police officials are because they’ve met on several occasions.

Now what Mario stated matches what a PNP connection of your Chair Wrecker previously said when asked what he knew about the QC shooting incident. Per our PNP connection, the probe should look into this — that the driver who got away is a police operative while the victims were police assets.

If that is true, then the QC incident could have been a setup (and not a shootout) in order to eliminate the said police assets who may be able to link PNP officials to the carnap syndicates.

The fear of the victims’ kin to be identified on video reflects just how bad the image of the police has been tarnished in our country. Considering that the victims were small fries — as can be seen from their dwellings — it is understandable for their kin to fear the police if indeed their slain relatives worked as police assets.

Go to the poor communities and you’ll find that people there are as afraid of being harmed by abusive cops just as they live in fear of being harmed by criminals. Watch the TV primetime news and you’ll see that a good percentage of disorder in the Barangay is caused by abusive or drunken cops.

Perhaps the government should assign the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) to work under the CHR in doing a parallel probe, independent of the PNP probe. Because some PNP officials could be protecting carnap syndicates, a public that has long developed a fear of the very people who are supposed to protect them will tend to doubt a PNP probe.

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