Diego Bello, a 32-year-old businessman from Galicia, was a very outgoing, athletic and sociable boy, as defined by his uncle Francisco. Passionate about the sea and surfing, he ended up in the Philippines, where he launched several businesses. “Life was going well for him,” until police shot him dead outside his home on January 8, 2020.
Almost two years later, a new report from the National Bureau of del Intelligence from the Philippines shows that Diego was killed for no apparent reason. Data that give the family some hope when they see that little by little they begin to know what happened and there is less to do justice, according to Francisco.
The report denies the version of the Philippine police, who said they had an armed confrontation with Diego because he shot them first when he was discovered in an alleged operation carrying drugs in one of his hands. The NBI assures that the trajectory of the shots analyzed in the autopsy indicated that some were fired from top to bottom, which dismantles the police version that the agents acted in self-defense.
He also says that Diego was not listed in any registry of drug traffickers in the area. That is why the Philippine Justice believes that It is a montage made by the policeman who directed the operation, Vicente Handkerchiefs.
The unknown remains why and on whose behalf they wanted to end Diego’s life. Meanwhile, “the three police officers who have been accused of murder, preparing false evidence and perjury, continue to work, continue to collect from the Philippine State despite the seriousness of the accusations,” Francisco denounces.
Diego’s family is convinced that there was a criminal organization. “Now the report of the Ministry of Justice says that there are cameras in the businesses that Diego ran and it is seen that he leaves the restaurant as he always walked with his Bermuda shorts, with his strappy T-shirt and that That gun couldn’t take her anywhere, she wasn’t even wearing a fanny pack as it appeared at the scene of the crime…”
The new evidence confirms what Diego’s family defended from the beginning, that he had no ties to drug trafficking, something of which he had been accused without evidence, based on a simple testimony of a confidant. “It is not easy in itself to lose a son or a nephew in a cruel way, and it is not easy to understand the silence and lack of cooperation of the Philippine authorities,” Francisco acknowledges.
The family’s struggle was complex, being in Galicia and coinciding with the pandemic, which prevented them from traveling. “We maintained permanent contact with the Spanish embassy in the Philippines and with the consul in Manila,” says Francisco, but then they did not consider going because of the danger they could run.
Diego’s case caught the attention of the authorities as he was the only foreigner killed by shooting by the Philippine police under the 2016 Rodrigo Duterte anti-drug law that allows police to shoot drug traffickers in clashes. Francisco assures that the Philippine government and justice have opened a total of 52 investigations of situations similar to Diego’s.
Human Rights Watch estimates that 12,000 people have died in the Philippines at the hands of police in alleged anti-drug operations since Duterte began his war on drugs. Philippine police put 7,000 people killed in raids. Andrés Zaragoza, spokesperson for Amnesty International, assures that there “the human rights situation has been very bad for years and has worsened lately,” which is why he believes that deaths could be thousands more, since, in addition to the hands of the police, they are produced at the hands of vigilante groups.
Zaragoza believes that impunity in the Philippines has become widespread since Duterte’s arrival to power in 2016. “He encouraged the police to kill people, and this also causes impunity.” Not only are police officers not penalized for killing, they are sometimes promoted.
The investigation of Diego’s case and the recognition that it is a set up by the police seems to him to be important news that can play against the Government by demonstrating that it is not a specific problem, but that it is part of a policy, according to the expert.
Francisco also believes that the fact that President Rodrigo Duterte is going to be “helpless” when he loses the presidency next year by not being able to run for reelection may have influenced the investigation. “There may be an attempt at a facelift by the regime.”
The family trusts that pressure from the Spanish government will see this case be taken to the end.