PNP IAS slaps 8 cops for grave misconduct in Dino Dañas slay case

By Paulo Papa and Bicol Mail News Team


The Internal Affairs Service (IAS) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Naga City has recommended the filing of formal charge for grave misconduct against eight policemen who were members of the police composite team involved in a search warrant operation, which led to the death of drug suspect Dino Dañas on Feb. 26, 2021.


Lawyer Clarissa M. Traje, city superintendent of the Naga City PNP IAS, in an interview told Bicol Mail that her office already completed the pre charge investigation report (PCIR) against the policemen involved in the Dañas killing and that it was already submitted to the Regional IAS in Legazpi City.


Traje said her office recommended the filing of summary hearing against the eight police officers for grave misconduct. Grave misconduct is considered a serious offense and a police officer found guilty of it faces the penalty of dismissal from the service.


According to Traje, the IAS based on its mandate automatically conducts motu propio investigation (MPI) of police operations where the suspect died or was seriously injured. In the course of the MPI, the IAS requires the police personnel involved to submit mission orders and other documents in support of their operation.


Once the IAS finds probable cause based on the MPI, that is the time we conduct a pre charge investigation where we require them to submit counter affidavits and we gather other evidence such as Scene of the Crime Operation (SOCO) reports, autopsy report, paraffin tests, and others, Traje added.


Traje said that the death of a suspect or serious physical injury suffered by a suspect in the course of a police operation is already considered as probable cause, because based on strict compliance to police operational procedure, no suspect should die oer get hurt in any police operation. So if someone dies during the operation, the presumption is something went wrong with the police procedure.


In a related development, Traje said that the Naga City IAS had investigated a total of 33 incidents from 2016 up to 2020 under the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Campaign or Project Double Barrel. All the 33 cases involving police officers of the Naga City Police Office were recommended for summary hearing.


For the period January to March 2021, the Naga City IAS has already investigated 11 cases involving police personnel involved in the drug war.


The Dañas incident


To recall, the subject of the IAS investigation was the Feb. 26, 2021 early morning killing of Dino Dañas, a former Regional Trial Court (RTC) Naga court employee, brother of Branch 28 Clerk of Court lawyer Roy Dañas, private practitioner Atty. Rosalie Dañas-Mecate, and son of the late fiscal and then Judge Romeo Dañas.


The victim was killed by police operatives in the course of a search warrant implementation for dangerous drugs possession at the Dañas ancestral home compound in the populous Greenland Ave., Concepcion Pequeña, Naga City.


Bicol Mail featured the Dañas slay as its front page story on its April 1, 2021 issue entitled “RTC judges seek dialogue with police on drug killings.”


According to Bicol Mail sources, the special dialogue sought by the RTC judges was initially suggested by Judge Soliman Santos Jr. of Branch 61 last Mar. 8 and was well taken by Executive Judge Erwin Virgilio Ferrer who initially believed that this could be properly addressed in a meeting of the Naga City Justice Zone.


The same source said that some judges believed that the Dañas killing could and should have been avoided, given that what was involved was a normally less risky search warrant implementation rather than a buy-bust operation, that there appears to have been an overwhelming police force employed sufficient to capture him alive, and that there was a significant number of persons and residents around the scene of the alleged armed confrontation who were potential “collateral damage” victims.


These persons and residents included other Dañas family members in their compound, as well as at least 20 persons who were chanced upon by the raiding team, while engaged in a small-time illegal gambling activity of “Cara y Cruz” in the sala of the separate three-room small house unit of suspect Dino Dañas, who was asleep in his room at around past two in the early morning of Feb. 26.


According to the NCPO blotter entry on the Dañas incident, the operating units were the CDEU led by P/Lt. Charles Emerson Oamil, the City Intelligence Unit, the RPDEU led by P/Maj. Aldin Orquita, 501st Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB), Intelligence of the City Mobile Force Company (CMFC) and the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), in coordination with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) regional office, and under the overall supervision of the NCPO chief.


The police composite team was implementing a search warrant issued by Executive Judge Ferrer issued on Feb. 18, 2021 against suspect Dino Dañas at his residence in Zone 3, Greenland Ave., Concepcion Pequeña, Naga City for possession of an undetermined sizeable quantity of “shabu” and drug paraphernalia.


The police blotter stated that upon noticing the arrival of the operating team, the suspect Dino Dañas ran towards a room inside his house and took a .38 cal. revolver and fired towards the team. Hence, the team returned fire to repel the danger posed by the suspect, resulting in an armed confrontation. Suspect sustained gunshot wounds and was given immediate medical assistance.


During the search, the team discovered two pieces of heat-sealed transparent sachets containing suspected “shabu,” and one piece fragmentation grenade in plain view on top of the table. The crime scene was processed by the PNP Camarines Sur Provincial Crime Laboratory Office (CSPCLO). The suspect was pronounced dead on arrival by attending physician Dr. Sheila Marie Sarcia of the Naga City Hospital at around 6:35 AM.


Unnecessary Overkill?


According to Dañas family sources who included eyewitnesses, Dino Dañas was roused from his sleep by the commotion resulting from the raiding team’s entry into his house. The team found the 20 or so illegal gamblers playing “Cara y Cruz” in the sala, some of whom were able to scamper away, leaving only the 11 who were subsequently arrested.


When the policemen were rounding them up, they asked who was Dino Dañas among them. Dino then identified himself, was accosted by the team and was separated by the team from the group of 11 illegal gamblers. This group was made to lie prone mostly on the ground, and in that position could not see anything happening above them.


Eyewitnesses said they did not hear any reading of the search warrant. At some point, Dino was brought by some team members into the middle room (not his bedroom which was to the left of it) and it was here that he was shot to death at close range, without any shootout between him and the team.


Quite tellingly, there is a photo by mediaman Tex Agor of dwKM-FM who was imbedded in the team, showing the fallen Dino on the middle room floor without any gun in sight, and another photo by the Scene of the Crime Operations (SOCO) showing the fallen Dino in the same position but this time with a revolver near his legs while a SOCO operative was placing some position markers around his body.


It appears that Dino Dañas died on the spot after being shot several times by some raiding team members inside the middle room of his house. The SOCO photo would tend to indicate that he was left for a considerable time where he had fallen upon after being shot and still in the same position, thus, contrary to the NCPO blotter entry, was not given immediate medical assistance.


It was only after four hours, or past 6:00 AM that he was brought to the Naga City Hospital but already dead much earlier, closer to 2:00 or even 3:00 AM.


When his brother Atty. Roy Dañas saw his dead body at the morgue, Roy noted and photographed the following eight bullet wounds of Dino, with the blood having already been washed away: one on his left cheek which went through and through to the other side of the head, perhaps the most fatal and close-range wound; three on his upper chest; one on his left shoulder area; one on his left elbow, which went though and through, probably while his arms were raised in surrender or in a protective motion; and one near each of his two knee caps, possibly the first two gunshots to initially demobilize him before finishing him off with the upper chest and head shots.


The Dañas family has however decided not to pursue any case on the police killing of Dino. They in fact no longer had an autopsy or medico-legal examination done on his body and instead had it cremated last Feb. 27 the following day after he died. Dino was 46, and left three children ages 23, 20 and 18. He was estranged from his wife.