Pathologist raises alarm over police visits

The country’s top forensic pathologist revealed feeling harassed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) for visits to her office in connection with her autopsy on 17 year olds Jemboy Baltazar and Kian delos Santos.

Dr.  Raquel Fortun said members of the Navotas PNP visited her in relation to her autopsy of Baltazar killed by their men last August 2 and the Caloocan PNP in relation to the bullet she extracted from delos Santos’ cadaver in August 2017.

“Yes, you know where to find me,” Fortun said of the police visits, adding she is just putting out the information “for whatever protection this disclosure could offer.”

The pathologist then asked his X (formerly Twitter) followers to make some noise if something happens to her.

“I take some comfort in that. Thanks,” she added.

Fortun also revealed in a series of tweets since the weekend that public prosecutors from the Department of Justice have visited her, but gave no further details.

She however asked, “Wasn’t it your job to investigate? Why harass me for my findings?”

Fortun had been conducting autopsies on presumed victims of extrajudicial killings by the police and the military upon requests by their respective families.

Aside from police killing victims, Fortun has also conducted autopsies on victims of the so-called Bloody Sunday Massacre victims in Cavite and Batangas in March 21, National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Randall Echanis and Ericson Acosta, Lumad teacher Chad Booc, among others.

Counterfoil to impunity

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) expressed “serious concern” about Fortun’s warning, saying the threat must only be related to the pathologist’s autopsy on Baltazar.

“The manner of the visit points to intimidation,” BAYAN president Renato Reyes Jr. in a statement Tuesday said.

Reyes said the police cannot ask Fortun to disclose the autopsy findings because these can only be given to the victim’s family who requested for the procedure.

“Only the victim’s family can authorize the public disclosure of the autopsy findings. The PNP should know this basic procedure,” Reyes added.

BAYAN said Fortun’s work is important for human rights in the Philippines as it serves as a counterfoil to impunity.

“She must be allowed to perform her work without police interference and intimidation,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Autopsy: Ericson Acosta injured way before fatal shots, after he already died

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant and celebrated poet Ericson Acosta was shot both on his front and back, bolstering claims by various activist groups he and peasant leader Joseph Jimenez were actually killed execution-style by the military.

In a press conference Saturday, July 29, forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun said Acosta died from hemorrhagic shock resulting from chest wounds that lacerated his lungs.

But Fortun added that Acosta may have been shot way before his fatal wounds and after he died, based on the wound on his right hand that had severe hematoma as well as a back wound that lacerated the aorta at his lumbar area but did not bleed.

“It seemed the shots were fired at different times…On his hand, that was way before the fatal shots,” she said in a mix of Filipino and English.

Fortun underscored that Acosta’s wound from the left side of the torso was probably fired when he was already dead.

“He should have bled profusely (from that laceration of the aorta). He was probably dead by then,” the expert explained of the wound that also shattered two thick vertebrae.

“He had so many wounds and these were in clusters,” she said, adding that Acosta also had edema on his right thigh.

Fortun also explained that Acosta’s wounds on his upper right arm that was earlier reported as stab and hack wounds resulted from exiting bullet wounds.

“He must have had his right arm close to his chest,” she said.

READ: NDF-Negros: Military murdered peace consultant-poet Ericson Acosta

Fortun and University of the Philippines College of Medicine colleague Patricia Ann Franco conducted the autopsy on Acosta’s remains last December 5, five days after he and Jimenez were killed in Kabankalan City, Negros Oriental in what the military claimed was a firefight with the New People’s Army (NPA).

Acknowledging the limitations imposed on an autopsy procedure after embalming, Fortun bewailed that they examined Acosta’s remains after his wounds have already been sutured.

She also noted that the white shirt Acosta’s body was wearing when it arrived in Manila was not the blue shirt he was wearing on the photographs the military posted online.

“There is no independent, immediate and scientific investigation conducted at the scene. That is the problem in this country as far as forensic pathology is concerned,” Fortun complained.

Photo of the poet by the Free Ericson Acosta campaign.


In their announcement of Acosta and Jimenez’s deaths last November 30, National Democratic Front-Negros spokesperson Bayani Obrero said the victims were killed by the 94th and 47th infantry battalions of the Philippine Army.

The government troopers first strafed the house where the victims were sleeping in and later killed them outside, Obrero said.

Obrero also denied there was a fire fight with the NPA at Sitio Makilo, Barangay Camansi were the victims were killed.

In a separate statement, human rights group Karapatan said Acosta and Jimenez were actually captured alive by the military at 2 AM last November 30 and were taken 200 meters away from the house to be executed.

The 94th Infantry Battalion is also accused of having massacred the Fausto family last June 14 and having killed farmer Crispin Tingal last May 3 in Kabankalan City.

READ: Mission reports AFP responsible for Fausto massacre, other killings

After the release of the autopsy report on Acosta, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) again called for an independent investigation of the killings.

“The militarization and killings in Negros must stop. We call on human rights defenders and the people to fight the increasing trend of fascist terror in the countryside of Negros that has resulted in the deaths of many peasant organizers and masses,” BAYAN president Renato Reyes Jr. said.

“There is armed conflict in Negros but this cannot be solved by militarist means. The social roots must be addressed for there to be a just peace,” Reyes added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)