FOUR senators on Friday called for an investigation into recent anti-drug operations in Bulacan and Metro Manila that led to the deaths of 74 people, including a 17-year-old Grade 11 student.
The government’s war on drugs claimed the lives of 32 people in Bulacan and 25 in Manila on Thursday as well as 17 in the Camanava (Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela) area on Friday when the victims allegedly fought with police raiding teams.
Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, Richard Gordon and Grace Poe want the Senate to look into the spate of killings involving suspected drug dealers and users amid claims from the victims’ relatives that their loved ones were summarily killed by policemen.
Aquino said he would file a resolution next week to look into the death of Kian Lloyd de los Santos, 17, during an anti-illegal drug operation in Caloocan City.
“I plan to file a resolution because the news reports were really worrisome,” he said, referring to de los Santos’ killing.
The police claimed that the boy shot them several times, prompting them to retaliate.
However, closed-circuit television video from the village showed two policemen dragging the victim to the place where he was found dead.
Sen. Francis Escudero said the footage and eyewitness accounts clearly showed that the boy was killed. “The police officers involved are not only abusive, they are killers and criminals.”
Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice, said: “That case of the 17-year-old, I’ll have that investigated. There’s evidence. We must be fair. You cannot fight the drug menace by just killing. You must go to the source.”
Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th said he would request for an all-senators caucus on Tuesday “to bring this issue to fore.”
“Sobra na. Maling-mali na talaga ito [This is too much. This is indeed really wrong]. I cannot, in my conscience, let this pass. The senators should have a united stand to stop this,” said Trillanes, a member of the Senate minority bloc.
But Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, wants the PNP to release its initial findings before conducting an investigation.
“I would rather wait for them to come up with their initial findings and if they’re obviously in for a cover up as in the case of Supt. (Marvin) Marcos et al., then the Senate must exercise its oversight authority and conduct a separate inquiry,” he said.
Lacson was referring to police involved in the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa in November.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said the Senate should look into the recent spate of killings. “The body count is reaching alarming levels. We need to ensure that we are not creating killing machines.”
6 dead in Manila
The Manila Police District said six alleged criminals, including a 17-year-old boy, were killed overnight on Thursday in Manila.
According to the Homicide Section of the Manila Police District, the first to fall was a certain Jonjon, 17, who resisted arrest and exchanged gunfire with police at about 10 p.m. near the post office in Ermita, Manila.
Next killed was a certain Paulo, between 18 and 22 years old, 5’4” in height, with a star tattoo on his right shoulder. He died at 1:30 a.m. Friday on Quirino Avenue in Pandacan.
The two were allegedly hold-uppers.
The four others were alleged shabu pushers—Mel John Galman, 26 and Jessie Yumang, 40 of 2359 J. Tejeron Street, Barangay 781, Santa Ana; and Edmel Santiago and Joey Santos, both residents of 2083 San Roque Street in Santa Ana.
Santiago and Santos were killed at 2:30 a.m. Friday in an exchange of fire with policemen in Santa Ana.
Galman and Yumang died at 1:45 a.m. along Tejeron Street.
Police recovered sachets of shabu, buy-bust money, and various pistols.
Prior to this, police killed 25 individuals, including 14 alleged pushers, the other day in another aggressive anti-crime operation.
“How heartless are you?” PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said to the policemen allegedly involved in the death of the 17-year old Grade 11 student in Caloocan.
“Think of that. You’d kill a child. What kind of cop are you? Are you even a cop? What if that happened to a sibling of yours?” de la Rosa said on Friday.
He said he wanted the police to be ruthless but not abusive. He reiterated that the police should not implicate innocent people in anti-drug operations.
“You have to protect yourself. You have to defend yourself. Those were my only instructions,” de la Rosa told reporters.
But Malacañang said the death of a 17-year-old boy in Caloocan was an “isolated” case.
“That incident I think is isolated,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said during a press conference.
Abella reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte will not tolerate any police abuses despite his promise to protect and defend law enforcers carrying out his drug war.
Duterte’s drug war has been blamed for the deaths of over 6,000 people, most of them drug suspects, since he assumed office.
In the wake of this week’s killings, human rights groups and the political opposition have again raised concerns.
Leading them is Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, who said that impunity should not characterize the Philippines as a nation.
CATHERINE S. VALENTE, JAIME R. PILAPIL AND RJ CARBONELL