MANILA (UPDATE) – The Philippine National Police on Friday said it has not yet accepted the version presented by Rodriguez, Rizal cops on an anti-illegal drug operation that killed a 3-year-old girl.
"It was an accident that nobody wanted. It is unfortunate that a child died. We are saddened by the incident. Nobody wanted this to happen. A police officer also died," PNP spokesperson Colonel Bernard Banac said in an ANC interview.
Three-year-old Myka Ulpina died after being caught in a crossfire during an anti-narcotics operation in Rodriguez, Rizal last June 30.
Banac said that according to the police's version of the events, Renato Dolorfina, Myka's father, "drew his firearm first upon sensing that the poseur-buyer he was transacting with is a police operative."
"In the firefight that ensured, it turned out that a child was also hit," he said.
Earlier reports said Dolorfina fired at the police and used his daughter as a human shield. The child’s mother denied this, saying they were sleeping when the incident happened.
Dolorfina, and another companion, as well as Senior Master Sgt. Conrad Cabigao, died in the shootout.
Banac said an internal investigation is underway to determine whether the police violated procedures in engaging armed suspects and if there is truth to their claim that Ulpina was used as a shield by her father.
"We are not accepting it yet. That is the initial report submitted by the operatives and we are looking also into the other statements of witnesses and the family," Banac said.
"We need to consider all these so we’d be able to get the real picture of what happened during that fateful day."
NEIGHBORS TOLD: STAY INDOORS
Rexford Guevarra, Commission on Human Rights regional director, meanwhile, said several witnesses claimed that the police told them to stay inside their houses before the operation that killed Myka.
Some of the cops were in civilian clothes, Guevarra quoted the witnesses as saying.
"That implies that the witnesses, the neighbors, were kept from the operation," he said.
Guevarra said the CHR is investigating Ulpina’s death, but lamented that some witnesses have been very reluctant to share information.
He said he hopes the CHR would be able to obtain data from the PNP regarding the incident to aid them in their independent investigation.
He said in Region 4 alone, the commission is investigating 413 cases, only about 10 percent of which were elevated to the courts.
Guevarra cited the difficulties in obtaining documents from the PNP.
“The chiefs of police who respond to our subpoena are citing PNP guidelines preventing them from issuing documents to the CHR,” he said.
Banac, for his part, said the CHR will have to get permission from the Office of the Solicitor General to obtain pertinent documents.
“If it is the policy of the executive department that we should do it this way, we follow… we’d like to cooperate in any investigation,”
A CHILD AS HUMAN SHIELD?
Meanwhile, Carlos Conde, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said Myka's death is not the first time that a child had died while police were allegedly conducting anti-drug operations.
He cited the case of a four-year-old boy who was accidentally shot during an anti-drug operation in Cebu in July last year. Police claimed a drug suspect dropped his gun, which led to an accidental firing that killed the boy.
The victim's father told ABS-CBN News that the police officer who carried his son even apologized for the shooting.
Conde said the latest shooting could be a case of "police not minding the safety of other people when conducting raids, which usually occur in urban poor areas where families tend to live closely together, often crammed in a room in a hovel."
He added that in Myka's case "especially the claim that her father fought back and used her as a shield is consistent with previous police misconduct."
A Human Rights Watch report in 2017 earlier claimed police are routinely "planting weapons or drugs...to justify the claim that suspects fought back."
Latest PNP data showed that more than 6,000 drug suspects have been killed in police anti-drug operations from the start of the Duterte administration in July 2016 until the end of May this year.