THE spate of deaths of teenagers in police operations were meant to sabotage the government’s anti-drug campaign, President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday.
In a speech in Digos City, the President told Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa to examine the spate of killings more closely, because the police campaign was being deliberately derailed.
“Be wary, someone is sabotaging us,” he said.
The President revealed that 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz, who was killed in Caloocan City by the police in a shootout, was a distant relative through the mother’s side.
“This I can tell you—one of those killed was my relative. Carl Angelo Arnaiz was my relative. Would I agree to have him killed by the police? Me? Will I allow the police to kill my relative?”
Police said Arnaiz had robbed a taxi, then engaged them in a shootout in which he was killed. An autopsy showed signs of torture, however.
But Duterte insisted that someone was out to discredit him, and dared his critics to hold massive rallies against the war on drugs.
“Let them shout, give them the space. We won’t be cowed,” the President said in Filipino.
The latest victim of the war on drugs was 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman, the companion of Arnaiz who went missing on Aug. 18. His body was found in a creek in Gapan City, Nueva Ecija, with more than 30 stab wounds and his face was wrapped in packaging tape.
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.
In the face of growing outrage at the killings, Malacañang said it was the responsibility of parents to keep their children away from harm.
Despite Duterte’s vow to keep the streets safe, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella advised parents to keep their children from straying out of their homes to avoid adding to the grim statistics of people killed in the drug war.
“What can we say is that as far as we can, we try to maintain more solid family relationships to be more careful in terms of the children’s activities,” Abella said.
“And again, as we reminded, to keep them away, to make sure that they are kept away from questionable activities, to warn them again and again, not to even to be physically near, not to entertain suspicious activities or even companions. To be careful,” he added.
Abella denied that the deaths represented a crisis, but said they were “a growing concern.”
He said scalawag cops have no place in the Philippine National Police and welcomed a Senate investigation into the deaths.
“The Executive [and] the Philippine National Police will cooperate with the Senate investigation and any other investigations called for,” he added.
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.
Rights group Karapatan said the series of killings should not only be blamed on the police, but also on Duterte, who gave his imprimatur for these killings.
“There is an increasing pressure to review and altogether overhaul the drug war campaign. The anger over this campaign should be directed not only to its implementer–the PNP–but also its main engineer, President Rodrigo Duterte himself. There is no hope in a government that murders the youth. It is high time to break our silence and take an active part to end the killings,” the group said in a statement.
The Justice Department said Friday that it has filed 19 criminal cases in various courts in connection with deaths that resulted from the administration’s intensified anti-drugs campaign.
In a report, the DOJ revealed that 19 murder and homicide cases are now being prosecuted in court, 13 of them arose from the killing of alleged drug users or traffickers during law enforcement operations, while the six killings were committed “outside of legitimate police or law enforcement operations.”
Of the 19 cases, nine were filed before various courts in Metro Manila, four each in Calabarzon and Bicol, and two in Mindanao.
The DOJ report also showed that DOJ’s National Prosecution Service received 71 murder and homicide complaints from July 1, 2016 to August 22, 2017.
Of the 71 complaints, 45 stemmed from legitimate law enforcement operations while 26 were outside legitimate operations.
Nineteen of the complaints have since been forwarded to the courts for trial, 17 are still pending resolution, and 35 have been dismissed.
The DOJ released the data amid public outrage over the deaths of Delos Santos, Arnaiz and De Guzman.