SENATORS met Sunday night to discuss whether to investigate the spate of killings, after a 17-year-old Grade 11 student was shot dead in an intensified police campaign on illegal drugs.
In an interview on radio dzBB, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the committee on public order and dangerous drugs will accede to the majority’s wishes, even though he had wanted to give the Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Service and the Justice Department the opportunity to conduct their own investigation first.
Lacson said the meeting Sunday was held upon the initiative of Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.
“He suggested we meet to get a sense of the majority on what to do amid the renewed spate of killings. And this was highlighted following the death of a 17-year-old, and what actually happened was seen on CCTV,” Lacson said.
Lacson also said they would review the findings of the Senate justice committee headed by Senator Richard Gordon, which had earlier stated that the drug-related killings were not state-sponsored.
Last week, a total of 81 drug suspects were killed by police in Bulacan, Manila and the Camanava area. Thirty-two of those were killed in Bulacan over a 24-hour period.
On Thursday night, 34 drug suspects were also killed by Manila policemen. Twenty-four were killed by Camanava policemen, including 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.
Lacson said the Senate investigation would zero in on CCTV footage that showed Delos Santos being dragged to an alley where he was shot dead by policemen.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said they have in their custody some of the witnesses in the killing of Kian after coordinating with the victim’s parents.
Lacson said it was possible that the latest police killing spree was the result of Duterte’s declaration that he would protect police involved in drug-related shootings—including Supt. Marvin Marcos, who led a police raid that killed a mayor who was in jail.
“If the President is so tolerant and defends the cops right away, then of course, they will become reckless,” Lacson said in Filipino.
The senator also said he was aware of rumors of a police “quota” system in the campaign against illegal drugs, which rewarded policemen to take down more drug suspects. Such a system, he added, would make police “over-eager” and “create a scenario to score.”
Earlier, the minority bloc in the Senate called for solidarity against senseless killings such as that of Delos Santos.
Shocked by the death of an innocent teenager in Caloocan City, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said the government should rethink its strategy, saying the poor and helpless are casualties in this war while those involved in big drug cases are accorded due process.
“We cannot tolerate the alarming police impunity in the country. We need to investigate these killings of alleged drug suspects including a Grade 11 student in police operations,” Senator Franklin Drilon said.
Drilon earlier questioned Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre at the 2018 budget hearing for their failure to investigate extrajudicial killings, with only 37 of about 4,000 deaths related to the anti-drug campaign being investigated.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said he was enraged that the poor are marked as targets in the anti-drug campaign while more than P6 billion worth of shabu can slip past the Bureau of Customs unnoticed.
“The root of the problem was seen in the smuggling of shabu through the BOC by a syndicate that was in cahoots with Customs personnel,” Pangilinan said in Filipino.
Hontiveros urged the government to stop the extrajudicial killings, saying the Duterte administration cannot kill its way out of the drug problem.
“We refuse to accept these killings as normal,” she said.
Detained Senator Leila de Lima also criticized Duterte for praising the deadly Bulacan raids, which killed 32 people. “Those are clear words of a deranged mind. If you say that it’s good to kill 32 people a day—that’s a deranged mind,” she said.
Senator Nancy Binay expressed her outrage over the deaths of several minors in the administration’s ongoing war 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 added.
Children are paying the price of fumbled police operations, 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, a mother of four, said that no amount of apologies would bring back the children to their parents.
Vice President Leni Robredo visited the wake of Delos Santos Sunday and expressed her condolences to the family.
She called for an independent investigation to give justice to the Delos Santos family.
The boy’s father Saldy took Robredo through the alleyway, where his son was dragged by policemen as seen in the barangay’s CCTV footage up to the spot where he was killed.
The Office of the Vice President has offered to assist the Delos Santos family with their needs, she said.
Malacañang on Sunday assured the public that erring law enforcers would be properly investigated.
“The President who continues to vigorously pursue the dismantling of the drug apparatus, ensures that erring enforcers will be properly investigated,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
According to Abella, NCRPO Police Director Oscar Albayalde has expressed condolences to the bereaved family; ordered the relief and investigation of all involved, and assured the public that mistakes and illegal acts will not be tolerated.
“Let me be clear that the violent death of any Filipino is one death too many, especially that of Kian Loyd delos Santos,” he said.
“This deeply regrettable incident has triggered deep public sentiment, and challenges those in law enforcement to be wary of the reckless exercise of power and authority,” he added.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the circumstances surrounding the killing of Delos Santos.
Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa said the PNP is not in the business of killing innocent civilians, especially minors, but in an interview with ABS-CBN News claimed Delos Santos was a drug courier for his father, a claim Saldy denied.
Dela Rosa said the police officers involved will be sanctioned if the investigations find irregularities in their actions. With Rio N. Araja, Bill Casas and Rey E. Requejo