PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte threatened Wednesday night to shoot policemen involved in extrajudicial killings after three teenagers caught up in his anti-drug war were killed in what looked like summary executions.
In a speech at the 60th anniversary of the Social Security System, the President said his bloody war on drugs would continue, minus the extrajudicial killings.
“And if you are into it, I’ll see to it you go to jail. Maybe I’ll even be the one to shoot you,” he said in Filipino.
“But if I do not control drugs, I will put the next generation in jeopardy,” he added.
Duterte said he never ordered policemen to kill children and that he would not protect scalawag cops.
“You do not kill defenseless persons,” he said.
The latest victim to surface was 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman, the companion of 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz, who was shot dead by policemen in Caloocan City on Aug. 18. De Guzman, who was found floating in a creek in Gapan City, bore more than 30 stab wounds and his entire face was wrapped in masking tape. Arnaiz, who was shot dead by policemen, was found in a Caloocan City morgue on Aug. 28, his body showing signs of torture.
On Aug. 16, 17-year-old Grade 11 student Kian Loyd delos Santos was beaten and shot dead by policemen who claimed he fired on them first. Their account was contradicted by CCTV footage, eyewitnesses and autopsy findings that showed the boy had not discharged a weapon before he died.
Amid the simmering public outrage over the child killings, the Palace said it is rethinking the conduct of the war on drugs.
“The fact that the PNP is being investigated, that there are Senate hearings, this indicates that actually the whole nation is in the process of rethinking the way we do things,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a Palace news briefing.
Malacañang acknowledged that the spate of killings involving children allegedly perpetrated by rogue cops were not isolated events and needed to be addressed.
Restructuring the process of maintaining peace and order in the country falls within the ambit of the President’s campaign against crime, corruption, and illegal drugs, Abella said.
“A major rethinking going on,” he said.
Abella offered none of the usual defense of policemen conducting anti-drug operations.
“Let’s put it this way. The whole matter is under investigation,” Duterte’s spokesman told reporters.
He again assured the public there would be no whitewash.
The police last year suspended the drug war for an “internal cleansing” after crooked cops, on the pretext of carrying out the war on drugs, kidnapped then killed Korean businessman Jee Ick-Joo inside the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
When the anti-drug campaign was revived, more than 80 drug suspects were killed in a span of four days—including teenagers Delos Santos, Arnaiz and De Guzman.
Malacañang expressed the Palace’s “profound dismay” over Delos Santos’ death, and described it as “disturbing.”
Abella said the administration has already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a thorough investigation and case build-up over the killing of De Guzman.
Malacañang “is open to all significant and actually workable solutions” to resolve the issue of alleged extrajudicial killings, he said.
Police said they killed Arnaiz in a shootout, after he robbed a taxi driver, but his body showed signs of torture, and the trajectory of his gunshot wounds indicated he was lying on the ground when he was shot, the Public Attorney’s Office said.
Amnesty International said the deaths of teenagers in separate incidents called for an international level investigation of the President’s anti-drug war.
“This case and those of other young people make it even more urgent that an international level investigation takes place,” said James Gomez, AI’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“The world can no longer afford to look away, stay silent, or offer muted expressions of condemnation,” he added. “The brutality must stop. The victims and their families deserve justice.”
The group said De Guzman’s killing is “the latest atrocity” in the series of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
“This is not an isolated case or a mistake, but the latest atrocity in a wave of unlawful killings that has claimed the lives of more than 50 children and thousands of other Filipinos,” Gomez said.
“Extrajudicial executions of people are never justified, and when it comes to killing children this is especially horrific, brutally cutting short budding lives and condemning their families to a lifetime of inconsolable sadness,” he added.
In the Senate, Senator Ralph Recto said vest-mounted cameras will bring down the body count and stop bounty killings and urged the President and PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa to order their use as soon as possible.
The government, he added, has the funds and the mandate to buy vest- and dashboard-mounted cameras for policemen and patrol cars. These could be delivered immediately if acquired through “expedited procurement,” a method allowed by the Government Procurement Reform Act.
“Money should not be a problem. The PNP recently received a DBM Special Allotment Release Order for P1.9 billion for the purchase of 12 lots of assorted equipment,” said Recto. With Macon Ramos-Araneta