CCTV vision obtained by 7.30 shows the moment an Australian man living in the Philippines was arrested by police and falsely accused of dealing drugs.
- Australian Damian Berg arrested in June for allegedly selling drugs to undercover cop
- CCTV proved police had arrested Mr Berg at a hotel, not on the street as claimed
- Mr Berg believes he was set up
Damian Berg is still unsure why the police targeted him, but suspects he may have been set up by an ex-partner of his girlfriend’s.
On the night of the June 21, Mr Berg was working in his third-floor room at the Red Planet Hotel in Manila.
At 11:00pm, a group of armed men gathered at the door of his room and knocked. When Mr Berg answered, they barged in.
“Five or six guys came busting in, Filipino guys with drawn firearms,” he said.
“I was told to shut up, not to say anything.
“And you do, ’cause they’ve got the guns, you’ve got no choice.
“I thought it was a robbery.”
Mr Berg’s hands were tied and he was taken from the room to the elevator. He had no idea what was going on.
“I asked them ‘Who are you guys?’ and that’s when they confirmed they were the police,” he said.
“I was [petrified], I thought we were going down to get shot for sure.”
The men took Mr Berg to a city backstreet where they arrested him, claiming he and another man had tried to sell drugs on the street to an undercover police officer.
Police showed ecstasy pills, cash to media
The surreal scene became even more bizarre for Damian when TV cameras suddenly turned up.
Fifty ecstasy pills and cash supposedly belonging to Damian were displayed as TV cameras circled the two men.
“The weird thing is that I’ve got no idea what the story [is] that they’re telling, because you’ve got to remember, that they came and just forced their way into the hotel and just took me by force for no apparent reason,” Mr Berg said.
“We’re taken up to a white taxi, and on the back of the taxi were two piles of drugs, and the police told me ‘That’s the drugs we’d recovered from you’.
“I’m thinking this is a complete set up.”
‘I thought I wouldn’t be freed’
Mr Berg had been working for a resources company based in Manila.
His partner, Marvie Lucresio Torreon, was pregnant, he had a job he loved and a bright future.
“Living in Manila was good,” he said.
“There’s always something to do there, there’s always entertainment, there’s live bands, there’s a market place right near our home that we go to quite regularly to eat dinner.
“The company I was working for was a Philippines-based company, and they had big plans moving forward past that project, so we had no intentions of going anywhere.
“Me and Marvie had planned to have a family, we thought it was that time to settle down.”
But around them the city they called home was becoming increasingly chaotic.
At the time of Mr Berg’s arrest, newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte was ramping up his vicious war on drugs.
There have been mass killings of drug dealers and users since Rodrigo Duterte’s election. (AP: Bullit Marquez)
“In an arrest, you must overcome the resistance of the criminal. And if he fights and he fights to death, you can kill them. And I’ll give you a medal,” Rodrigo Duterte told television viewers on June 4, before he was sworn in as President.
Within weeks of Mr Berg’s arrest, reports surfaced of mass extra-judicial killings of suspected drug dealer and drug users by police and vigilante gangs.
He nervously as his trial progressed. If found guilty of selling the ecstasy, he faced a life sentence.
“Throughout my trial, I was sort of watching his war on drugs being outlined, and obviously I was quite concerned about it, because all these people were being murdered,” he said.
“It was the worst time to be accused of such charges.
“Obviously I thought that, regardless of my innocence, I wouldn’t be freed.”
CCTV footage is the only thing that can prove my innocence
But there was one thing that could possibly help — the CCTV vision that showed Mr Berg was pulled from his hotel room and not arrested in the street as the police claimed.
“I told Marvie the first day that she came to the police barracks, ‘You need to get that CCTV footage because this is all lies, it’s the only thing that’s going to prove my innocence’.
Waiting in prison, Mr Berg became convinced the Police had destroyed the evidence.
“It’s hell, it’s the worst feeling, I’d rather be shot in one of these buy busts than sit there for the rest of my life,” he said.
Marvie contacted the security guard at the hotel and urged him not to delete the footage.
Damian Berg on site working for a resources company in the Philippines. (Supplied: Damian Berg)
The vision was subpoenaed from the hotel and presented to the court.
The court found the CCTV footage “belied the claim of the prosecution … and destroyed the integrity of their testimonies”. He was acquitted on September 15.
Damian and Marvie are now back in Australia, soaking up a taste of freedom he thought he might never have again.
“I am so lucky to be here,” he said.