PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s words of strong support for the Philippine National Police (PNP) “[are]not [a]license for it to go on a killing spree,” a senator said on Friday.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito was reacting to the President’s decision to return the PNP to the drug war after he expressed dissatisfaction over the conduct of the campaign by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Duterte shifted the responsibility to PDEA amid an alleged rise in extrajudicial killings and human rights violations, highlighted by the deaths of three teens – Kian Loyd de los Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman – in the hands of police who had claimed self-defense.
The policemen involved in the killings have since been sacked and charged before the courts.
“The PNP should not let the few rotten eggs destroy the reputation of the whole organization. Protection and respect for human rights should be upheld for all times,” Ejercito said.
Senators Grace Poe, Sherwin Gatchalian and Risa Hontiveros echoed Ejercito.
“We must not forget that the PNP has been involved in too many controversial operations, thus casting doubt on the organization’s ability to uphold the rule of law and respect basic rights,” said Poe, vice chairwoman of the Committee on Public Order.
Gatchalian said the PNP leadership must ensure that the “unnecessary bloodshed that marked its past anti-drug operations would not continue under its renewed mandate.”
“Over the past month PDEA has proven that the government’s drug war can be effectively pursued with minimal loss of life. The Filipino people will not think twice before holding the PNP leadership responsible for extrajudicial killings committed by police scalawags in future drug raids,” he said.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros said: “Returning the anti-drug campaign to an unreformed PNP is a slide back into the nightmare of Tokhang. It is a return to the horrors of extrajudicial killings.”
Hontiveros was referring to the PNP’s campaign dubbed “Operation Tokhang” (knock and plead), where policemen go to homes of suspects and ask them to stop using or selling illegal drugs.
Since Duterte took office, police have reported killing 3,967 people in the crackdown.
Another 2,290 have been murdered in drug-related crimes, while thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data.
Duterte allies said the decision of the Chief Executive was his prerogative and that he must be allowed to do his style in addressing the drug menace.
“This is his administration and its declared policy is the all out war against drugs. Let him (President) pursue that in accordance with his own strategy,” said Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd.
“I just remind all concerned to conduct the all-out war against drugs in accordance with law,” Pimentel said.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said: “That’s the prerogative of the President. I hope the PNP has learned from its past mistakes. Be more careful and protect rights of suspects.”
“The key is vigilance to always put them (PNP) on notice that they are being watched,” said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.
Lacson said that based on his conversations with senior PNP officials, “they have now become more conscious, if not wary of possible dire consequences of the excesses committed by the men under their command.”
Sen. Gregorio Honasan 2nd downplayed the return of the PNP in Duterte’s drug campaign.
He said that the “realignment of functions and mission, including presidential prerogatives and powers allowed by law to serve public order and safety, protect life liberty and property, is procedural.”
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd was the lone voice for PDEA: “If supervised by PDEA, I believe it will be more effective and more in line with the intentions of RA 9165 that I principally authored.”
During its brief stint as the head of Duterte’s drug campaign, PDEA has arrested Diane Uy, daughter of detained “drug queen” Yu Yuk Lai, in a raid on November 6 of her home in Manila where P10 million worth of shabu was seized.