Independent probe panel eyed for drug deaths

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Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman called on President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday to form an independent commission that would probe deaths related to the war on drugs.

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The lawmaker said that the fact-finding commission “should be composed of retired justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals of proven probity” and authorized to “[r]ecommend the prosecution of errant police officers and personnel and private parties.”

GONE TOO SOON Lorenza delos Santos weeps in front of her son Kian’s casket. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

Four senators on Friday called for a congressional probe, following recent anti-drug operations that led to the deaths of 74 people including a 17-year-old senior high school student in Caloocan City.

Buhay Party-list Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr. said a congressional hearing on “one-time-big time” police anti-drug operations was not needed. He said police behind the killings should be charged immediately.

“It would be good if the Senate investigates…If they want to be investigators, that’s okay. I respect that. Me, I’d rather be a man of action. I want justice done now because there is no need to investigate,” Atienza said.

Submit case folders, PNP told

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said he would require the Philippine National Police (PNP) to present the case folders of drug suspects killed in recent anti-drug operations.

Among those killed on Wednesday was Grade 11 student Kian Loyd delos Santos, 17. The police claimed the victim engaged them in a shootout but closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed three men in civilian clothes, who turned out to be policemen, dragging the boy away. Minutes later de los Santos was found dead with a bullet in his head.

“Let them present the folders of each victim, be they teenager or not, young or old. Let us see the details [surrounding their deaths],” Pimentel said in a radio interview.

“If we will see that they used the same conclusion that all of these victims fought with them, well, that’s unbelievable already,” he said.

“We will know if their conclusion is incredible if we will see that they merely resorted to ‘cut and paste’ [in preparing their incidence report],” he said in a radio interview.

‘Stand in solidarity’

The Senate minority bloc, led by Sen. Franklin Drilon, demanded that the upper chamber “stand in solidarity” against the senseless killings of 80 Filipinos in just four days.

Pimentel was set to call a caucus of members of the Senate majority bloc on Saturday to discuss the recent killings.

Sen. Nancy Binay expressed outrage over the deaths of several minors in the heightened campaign against illegal drugs.

“The deaths of these children are extremely enraging and brought me a heavy heart. And like every parent, I fear for the safety of my children. Kian could have been my son or daughter, or any policeman’s child for that matter,” she said.

Since last year, the anti-drug campaign has claimed the lives of 5-year-old Danica May Garcia; 5-year-old Francisco Manosca; Kristine Joy Sailog, 12; Emmanuel Lorica, 17; and many others.

Binay said that while she supports the war against illegal drugs, there are other means to address the problem.

“We in the Senate will act on this. To the rogue cops, you will have your day in the Senate investigations, you will all be made accountable for murder,” she said.

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima also criticized Duterte for praising the deadly Bulacan drug sweep, which led to the killing of 32 drug suspects. “Those are clear words of a deranged mind,” she said.

Drilon on Wednesday questioned Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd during a budget hearing for his failure to investigate extrajudicial killings, as only 37 of about 4,000 deaths related to the anti-drug campaign have been investigated.

Palace vows probe

Malacañang on Saturday assured the public that all those involved in the death of De los Santos will be properly investigated.

“[I] would like to make it clear that the violent death of any Filipino is one death too many, especially that of Kian Loyd delos Santos,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

Abella reiterated that Duterte will not tolerate police abuses despite his promise to protect law enforcers carrying out his drug war.

“Having said this, the President, who continues to vigorously pursue the dismantling of drug apparatus, ensures that erring enforcers will be properly investigated,” he said.

Director Oscar Albayalde of the National Capital Region Police Office has ordered a probe into the incident, Abella noted.

“He (Albayalde) has ordered the relief and investigation of all involved, and assured the public that mistakes and illegal acts will not be tolerated,” Abella said.

Abella earlier said the death of de los Santos was an isolated case.

Public safe

Albayalde on Saturday gave assurances that the public is safe, saying the killing of Kian was an “isolated incident.”

He urged the public to report abusive policemen so that they can be held accountable for their actions.

The NCRPO chief said the police will inventory firearms recovered the alleged drug suspects who were killed.
“These guns that are recovered from the suspects will be turned over to the PNP Crime Laboratory where it would undergo ballistics and could be used as evidences if there would be people who would file cases or complaints.” Albayalde said.

On Saturday, two alleged drug pushers were killed in a supposed shoot-out with police operatives following an entrapment operation in Binondo District, Manila.

Police Officer 3 Marlon San Pedro of the Homicide Unit of the Manila Police District described the two unidentified alleged drug pushers as between 35 and 40 years old.

The police said PO1 Glenn George Mendoza met the two at the corner of Camba and Clavel streets at 1:25a.m. When the lawman was about to hand the P500 buy bust money, one of the suspects drew a gun, prompting the police.

WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE, BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO, RJ CARBONELL AND JAIME R. PILAPIL

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