Senators hit spate of killings in drug raids

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 18 2017 06:42 PM

An unidentified suspect lies dead after a police encounter on Antipolo street, near España Avenue, on a night of drug-related violence in Manila on August 16, 2017. Vincent Go, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Several senators on Friday condemned the fresh spate of killings in recent anti-drug operations, with some calling for a legislative inquiry into the incidents.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan branded as a "massacre" the death of poor Filipinos under the administration's anti-narcotics campaign.

"Hindi solusyon sa problema ng droga ang kaliwa't kanan na patayan ng maliliit at mahihirap habang tone-toneladang shabu ang pinapalusot sa BOC (Bureau of Customs)," the minority lawmaker said in a statement.

(The killings of small and poor people left and right is not the solution to the drug problem when tons of shabu still get past the BOC.)

"Hindi ito makatarungan. Hindi araw-araw na patayan ng mahihirap ang solusyon. Tutulan ang masaker ng mahihirap. Itrato bilang health issue at problema din ng kahirapan at hindi lang problema ng kapulisan ang drug addiction," he added.

(This is not just. Killing the poor every day is not the solution. Oppose the massacre of the poor. Treat drug addiction as a health issue and a problem of poverty, not just a problem of law enforcement.)

Sen. Grace Poe said a Senate investigation on the killings would help allay the public's fears as the proceedings would be "constructive." 

"Kailangan talaga na fair and impartial ang investigation, kasi ang mga pulis, may karapatan na depensahan ang sarili nila, pero, mayroon din silang training na dapat hindi naman kaagad baril," she told ANC's Early Edition.

"Kailangan malaman natin kung ano ba talaga ang nangyari. Kasi hindi naman natin puwedeng solusyonan—we cannot solve one crime by committing another, because it will just keep escalating," she said.

"We’d like to see an impartial investigation not just in the Senate but also in our other institutions, and we should all take active part in that and not take this for granted," she added.

Sen. Sonny Angara also called for a Senate investigation, saying the death toll is "reaching alarming levels."

"We need to ensure that we are not creating killing machines. We need speedy justice machines, and ensure that we are strengthening our institutions like the courts, the police, the prosecutors," he said.

"We need people to believe in the justice system. Vigilante justice is not a systemic and long-term solution," he added.

Sen. JV Ejercito said that while he remains supportive of the fight against illegal drugs, the string of deadly raids may indicate abuse by police officers.

"I am just worried that these intensified killings are being used by some rogue police officers, knowing that the President has [vowed] to protect them," he said in a statement.

He said Ozamiz City's police chief, Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido, is "one living proof of this abuse." He said the police official's "sheer arrogance should be a cause for concern."

Espenido's warning to politicians with alleged drug links, Ejercito added, "is a display of misplaced bravado and

Espenido's stint as police chief in Albuera, Leyte and Ozamiz City saw the death of two alleged “narco-politicians.”

Recently, police killed Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, and 15 others in a drug raid. In November, Rolando Espinosa Sr., who was mayor of Espenido's turf at the time, was slain in a police operation while detained. 

In a rare comment on the drug war, Sen. Loren Legarda said that while she supports the campaign, "we must protect our children and the citizenry from acts of impunity waged by some police and vigilantes."

Scores died in simultaneous anti-drug operations in Bulacan, Manila, and the northern Metro Manila area this week alone, as the administration continued its fierce crackdown against narcotics. 

Among those killed was 17-year-old Grade 11 student Kian Loyd Delos Santos, who was seen in a CCTV footage being accosted by cops to the corner where he was found dead.

Malacañang, however, asserted that despite the drug deaths, people feel safer on the streets.

“Again and again, we hear people say that it’s safer. They feel comfortable and, in fact, they appreciate that the Philippines is being made safe again,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

He also called the teenager's death an "isolated" case, adding that government would not tolerate police abuse. 

Senators Bam Aquino and Sherwin Gatchalian have called for a Senate inquiry into the teen's death.

Latest government data show that a total of 3,451 drug personalities were killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to July 26, 2017.

The Philippine National Police has also determined that out of the 12,833 homicide cases from July 1, 2016 to June 16, 2017, 2,098 deaths were drug-related while 2,535 had nothing to do with the campaign.

A total of 8,200 homicide cases were, meanwhile, still under investigation "with motives to be determined," the PNP said.