Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima today urged her Senate colleagues to investigate the suspicious circumstances behind the bloody police raid in Tondo, Manila, which appears as another summary execution disguised as legitimate law enforcement.
De Lima, a known human rights defender, filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 566 directing the appropriate Senate committee to look into Reuters’ reports showing the arresting officer readily undermining eyewitness testimonies and video evidence during a violent raid that killed three suspected drug offenders.
“There is an imperative need to ensure that killings are seriously investigated, prosecuted and punished, especially by ensuring that victims, witnesses and victims’ families are not discouraged from coming forward,” she said.
“It is also important that an investigation by an independent body is immediately and automatically launched every time there are serious injuries and casualties resulting from law enforcement operations, which body will automatically preserve the evidence, including eyewitness testimonies,” she added.
In a special report last Nov. 27, Reuters, a London-based news agency, showed a security camera footage of the raid taken on Oct. 11 in Bgy. 19, Tondo, Manila, which resulted in the fatal shooting of three suspected drug offenders, to wit: Rolando Campo, Sherwin Bitas, and Ronnie Cerbito, by members of the anti-drug unit from Police Station 2.
The footage obtained by Reuters shows the police officers, led by Station Commander Santiago Pascual, clearing out the alley as they ordered potential witnesses to desert the area where the bloody operation would eventually take place.
The video also shows a victim’s body falling off the ground before Pascual turned away the video that recorded the incident. The next scene shows the police officers loading Campo, Bitas and Cerbito into pedicabs to rush them to the hospital.
Reuters further reported that an eyewitness account sheds further light into the incident, stating that she witnessed the police detaining the unarmed men in the alley next to her house and asked for an ID of Bitas. After one was produced, a police officer allegedly shouted “Positive! Positive!” and the officers opened fired on Bitas.
“It’s disturbing that the same Station Commander, as reported, even had the temerity to go so far as defending the act of tampering with surveillance cameras as being done for a ‘valid security reason’ and to ensure the operation wasn’t compromised, which raises more questions about, if not outrightly invalidating, the claimed legitimacy of the operations,” De Lima said.
“It is even more disturbing considering that eyewitnesses and victims’ families are being discouraged from coming forward and pressing charges, being told by police officers that ‘it was useless to complain [because it’s] the government you will be fighting against,’ and that the police ‘are just following orders,” she added.
As such, De Lima called on her Senate colleagues to urge the Philippine National Police (PNP) to publicly condemn and censure the acts of Santiago of trying to conceal incident of EJK by tampering with evidence.
She likewise pointed out the need to discourage pronouncements by law enforcement agents that readily discredit eyewitness testimonies that allege abuses on the part of government authorities.
“This is to prevent a chilling effect on those who have information about such abuses,” she noted.
De Lima noted it is the government’s duty to enact stronger measures that will ensure that police officers are conducting their operations with due respect for human rights and assurance that operations are properly planned to prevent casualties.
“There is a need for measure ensuring that operations are planned in such a way to prevent casualties as far as possible with use of deadly force employed as a last, not as the first or only resort;
“And with sufficient protocols for timely calling in emergency and medical support services where the need is reasonably anticipated or thereafter becomes necessary, so that on-site care can be readily administered and police officers have no excuse for sending dead bodies to hospitals via pedicabs,” she added.
Under Article XI, Section 1 of the Constitution, it states that “public office is a public trust” and that “public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice…”
Last Dec. 7, President Duterte reportedly brought the PNP back to his anti-narcotics campaign to actively support the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), who continues to lead the drug war.