MANILA (2nd UPDATE)—An official of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday criticized Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa's statement on the death of a 3-year-old girl in a recent police operation in Rizal.
Dela Rosa had said in a press conference that “s**t happens during operations,” a comment that CHR Region 4-A Director Rexford Guevarra found "inappropriate."
"I find the statements of Bato rather inappropriate because what we're dealing with here is the life of a 3-year-old. It's very inappropriate to describe the situation in that manner," Guevarra told ANC.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said an investigation is needed if the involved policemen took precautions to avoid the tragedy and if there were violations committed during the operation.
"Collateral damage during police operations may be unavoidable. But there is always the need to investigate to ensure that everything was done to avoid such mishaps and that accountabilities can equally be determined, should there be any lapses or violations," De Guia said.
The child, identified as Myka Ulpina, died after being caught in the crossfire during an anti-narcotics operation in Rodriguez, Rizal on June 30.
Ulpina’s father Renato Dolorfina and another companion, as well as undercover officer Police Senior Master Sgt. Conrad Cabigao, also died in the shootout.
Police claimed Dolorfina fired at them and used his daughter as shield. The child’s mother belied this.
New York-based Human Rights Watch also slammed Ulpina’s death, noting that police accounts of drug raids “are not reliable because the officers enforcing the “drug war” have been shown to manufacture evidence.”
The CHR earlier said it has launched an investigation into the incident.
Dela Rosa was police chief in the first 21 months of Duterte's presidency. The crackdown has officially killed over 5,300 alleged users and dealers—a number rights groups say could be 3 times higher.
Campaigners say the drug war killings could amount to crimes against humanity.
Although the Philippines has pulled out of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the war crimes body is pushing ahead with a preliminary examination of the crackdown.
Duterte had suspended the drug war twice in the past 2 years as the government investigated alleged abuses by drug police, but later allowed them to continue without significant reforms.
Three low-level police officers were found guilty last year of the 2017 murder of a Manila teenager who they said they mistook for a drug suspect.
Police said they are now targeting higher-level traffickers.
"We have shifted to supply reduction because the flood of illegal drugs continues despite our intensified campaign... on the street level," national police spokesman Bernard Banac told reporters as he watched the incineration of about a fifth of the drugs seized since the Duterte crackdown.
Cellophane-wrapped bricks of cocaine and methamphetamine were packed into a massive incinerator in Trece Martires City under armed guard in a carefully staged event before TV cameras.—With reports from Agence France-Presse