MANILA - Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa on Wednesday said no one has been ordering police officers to kill and denied that there is a culture of impunity among cops.
International watchdog Human Rights Watch said the recent killing of 2 unarmed civilians by Police Staff Sgt. Jonel Nuezca "underscores the impunity that prevails in the Philippines" and that it occurred in an "enabling environment for police violence" that President Rodrigo Duterte encouraged.
Dela Rosa, who headed the Philippine National Police at the start of Duterte's term in mid-2016, said Nuezca's actions should not be linked to the entire police organization.
He noted as well that in the bloody war on drugs, many police officers also died, and not just suspects.
"Sabi mo na culture of impunity? Tell me kung sino. From the President down to the lowest level of command, sino bang nagsasabi na patayin, patayin, patayin 'yang mga ganyan? Wala naman nagsasabi," he told ANC's Headstart.
(You said culture of impunity? Tell me who. From the President down to the lowest level of command, who among them said kill, kill, kill those people? No one said that.)
Nuezca's action was "personal" and was not part of any police operation, Dela Rosa said, insisting that this was an "isolated case."
Asked if he believes there is a culture of impunity in the PNP, he said: "No. Ginagamit lang yan ng critics na gustong sirain ang gobyerno natin."
(No. That is just used by critics who want to destroy our government.)
"Mag-interview ka sa pulis, kung sinong pulis ang gustong pumatay. Wala namang pulis na gustong pumatay," he said.
(Interview police officers, ask them who wants to kill? No police officer wants to kill.)
As Duterte's first top cop, Dela Rosa spearheaded the war on drugs in the early years of the administration.
Based on the latest government report, the campaign has claimed the lives of 5,942 suspected illegal drugs personalities and the arrest of 266,126, from July 1, 2016 until Oct. 31, 2020. Human rights groups say though that thousands more have died in alleged extrajudicial killings.
Authorities say suspects who died fought back during the operations.
Early this month, Duterte told law enforcers and prosecutors to "never waver" in the fight against the narcotics trade despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also repeated his accusation that rights defenders are "preoccupied" with the life of criminals, his advice for law enforcers to shoot suspects who fight back, and his promise to take responsibility for deaths in operations.
"Me, as mayor and now as President, I have to protect every man, woman, and child from the evils of drugs. Ayaw ninyong maniwala? Kayo. Basta sinabi ko, ang laro dito, patayan because nakita mo naman marami naman akong pulis na patay," Duterte said last Dec. 3 in a ceremonial destruction of seized illegal drugs at a facility in Cavite province.
(You don't believe me? That's up to you. Like I said, the game here is killing, because you see, I have many cops who have died.)
Nuezca's brutal killing of Sonia and Frank Anthony Gregorio last Sunday in Tarlac brought attention once again to the actions of police officers.
In a speech on Monday evening, Duterte said that although he supports policemen, he will not condone them if they do something wrong. What Nuezca did was "unfair and brutal," he said.