Drug war ‘spiraling out of control’
President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is spiraling out of control, a top human rights lawyer and opposition lawmakers said on Friday as police confirmed killing more than 100 drug suspects and at least two senators expressed support for a proposed Senate investigation of the killings.
“President Duterte’s war on crime has spawned a nuclear explosion of violence that is spiraling out of control and creating a nation without judges, without law and without reason,” said Manuel Diokno, chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group.
Diokno, a prominent law professor, likened the killings to the actions of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, accused of killing thousands of dissidents during a 20-year rule that ended in 1986.
Rep. Teddy Baguilat said the President’s rhetoric “breeds a culture of violence and culture of retribution.
Baguilat and Sen. Leila de Lima have asked Congress to investigate the drug killings.
But the new chief of the Philippine National Police, Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, said police should not be cowed by the proposed congressional inquiry.
He said the PNP would solve the country’s illegal drugs problem in three to six months.
The PNP said 103 drug suspects who resisted arrest had been killed, but insisted the policemen operated within the boundaries of the law.
“They put in danger the lives of our police officers who then had to defend themselves,” PNP spokesperson Dionaldo Carlos said.
At least two senators yesterday expressed support for De Lima’s proposed inquiry into the drug killings.
Saying the surge in the killings must be examined, Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said yesterday they would likely participate in the legislative investigation that De Lima proposed on Thursday.
De Lima, former justice secretary and human rights chief, said on Thursday that she would file a resolution for an inquiry into the deaths of drug suspects in police operations or even while already in custody, noting “telltale signs of summary executions” in a number cases.
“It is necessary before things get out of hand and such killings become the norm in law enforcement,” Trillanes said when sought for comment yesterday.
“I will definitely take part in the inquiry,” said Trillanes, among the senators expected to join the minority in the 17th Congress.
Pangilinan, a member of the Liberal Party (LP) like De Lima, said he might also participate in the hearings, as undertaking investigations in aid of legislation is part of a senator’s duties.
He said he would focus on a specific case—the death of an elderly farmer linked to the drug trade in Zamboanga City.
“I am inclined to participate in the hearings and if I do, I will focus my attention on the killing of the 75-year-old corn farmer in Zamboanga City who allegedly was a drug pusher and was shot and killed while he and his grandson were on their way to buy seedlings in the public market,” Pangilinan said a text message.
The grandson of Efren Macalintal survived the attack and saw how two still unidentified men shot his grandfather twice in the head.
The gunmen reportedly fled the scene shouting, “Selling drugs is prohibited in Zamboanga.”
Sen. Joel Villanueva, an independent who ran in the May 9 elections as a guest candidate of the LP, was tentative, saying he would participate in the De Lima-led investigation so long as it was clear it was geared toward useful legislation.
Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said he believed the Senate should steer clear of police matters.
“The Napolcom (National Police Commission) and the DOJ (Department of Justice) should be the ones to investigate. The Senate? What legislation are we looking at to warrant an inquiry?” he said.
De Lima said the inquiry would aid the making of legislation that would institutionalize rules of engagement that law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency should follow in pursuit of crime suspects.
She expressed concern that the killings were not being investigated when, by procedure, each case should be examined by the PNP Internal Affairs Service or by an independent body to find out if the operating guidelines were observed.
De Lima has long maintained a fighting stance against extrajudicial killings, pursuing an investigation into deaths linked to the so-called death squads in Davao City during her time as justice chief.
President Duterte, who had been a longtime mayor of Davao, had been linked to the death squads, but the DOJ closed the investigation in May for lack of evidence.
Mr. Duterte was elected in a landslide in May on a platform that included a merciless war against illegal drugs and crime.
He promised to kill tens of thousands of criminals to put an end to crime in the Philippines within six months of assuming office.
Bato not bothered
His chosen PNP chief, De la Rosa is not bothered by the proposed Senate inquiry into the drug killings.
“If you allow human rights investigations to scare you, nothing will improve,” De la Rosa said during the inauguration of a drug rehabilitation center in Camp Tolentino in Balanga City, Bataan province, yesterday.
“In three to six months, we will solve the illegal drugs problem in the country. We are just starting the campaign and we will not be intimidated by human rights advocates,” he said.
De la Rosa reiterated his position in the drug killings, saying he presumed regularity in the actions of policemen.
Some officials involved in programs that encourage drug abusers and dealers to surrender said fear was a good deterrent.
In Nueva Ecija province on Thursday, Gapan City Mayor Emerson Pascual told 434 people who had admitted to trading or using illegal drugs said that vigilantes had not killed any drug dealer in the city “because we value your lives.”
Those who surrendered signed an agreement to give up drugs.
Pascual said he pleaded with the police to let him speak to the drug suspects first. He is a member of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption who lost two siblings in a 2009 attack.
“President Duterte and I have the same goal—to clean our city, to clean our country. We differ in our approaches. I want to do this peacefully. The President wants to achieve this quickly even if it leads to deaths,” Pascual said.
In the Cordillera region, police said 701 marijuana cultivators and dealers surrendered this week.
In Olongapo City, 19 drug users and dealers surrendered to police while 256 drug users turned themselves in for rehabilitation in Ilocos Sur province.
Quezon dead now 31
In Quezon province, Senior Supt. Eugenio Paquiquiran, provincial police chief, said the number of drug suspects killed since President Duterte came to power had risen from 13 to 31.
Lucena City police chief Supt. Dennis de Leon said among those killed recently was Delson Nazareno Beringuela, 25, a suspected drug pusher.
De Leon said Beringuela was shot dead when he tried to grab the gun of a police escort as he was being taken to a hospital for medical checkup after being arrested on Friday.
Chief Insp. Javier Baasis, Quezon provincial police information officer, identified the other slain suspects as Manolito Macalintal Centeno Jr., No. 10 on the list of suspects in Tiaong town, and Ramil Enriquez Mitra, who was also on the Tiaong drug suspects’ list.
Centeno was shot in the head by an unidentified assailant in his bedroom on Thursday.
Mitra was found dead in his backyard with multiple gunshot wounds.
In Sariaya town, Alejandro Sante Umbrete, another suspected pusher, was shot dead by an unidentified assailant in Barangay Talaan Aplaya early Friday.
Umbrete, according to Sariaya police chief Supt. Alex Dimaculangan, was on the list of drug suspects in Lucena City.
Another drug suspect, Midelito Montealto Chumacera, was killed while he was driving a jeepney by a motorcycle-riding assailant in Barangay Concepcion Uno in Sariaya.
In Infanta, Larry Agbayani, tagged as No. 1 drug suspect in the town, and an associate were gunned down in Barangay Libjoa past 8 p.m. on Thursday.
Chief Insp. Roberto Santos, Infanta police chief, said Agbayani had been in and out of jail.
In the Bicol region, 2,913 drug suspects and users have surrendered since the launch of the antinarcotics drive.
Police officials said 675 surrendered in Sorsogon province, 1,043 in Albay, 321 in Masbate, 535 in Camarines Sur, 303 in Camarines Norte and 36 in Catanduanes.
In Manila, a drug suspect was shot dead by police when he tried to grab the gun of one of the officers arresting him in Sampaloc district on Thursday night.
Police identified the suspect as Eduardo Bernardo, alias Doro.
Three drug suspects were killed by police in different parts of Quezon City early yesterday.
The first suspect, identified only as Ver, was shot dead when he tried to shoot it out with a policeman who was arresting him in Barangay Payatas.
Gilbert Rex, the second suspect, was killed in an exchange of fire with policemen in Project 8.
The third suspect, identified only as Johng, was shot dead when he drew a gun as policemen were approaching to arrest him.
In Pasig City, Allan Pula, a companion of a drug suspect accused in the killing of a Quezon City policeman last year, was killed when he traded shots with policemen in Pasig City early yesterday.
Senior Supt. Jose Hidalgo Jr., Pasig police chief, said Pula was going to have a transaction with suspected drug dealer Datumantog Boratong in San Miguel district when policemen moved in.
Pula and Boratong traded fire with the policemen as they tried to escape. Boratong managed escape, but Pula was hit.
Senior Insp. Robert Garcia, Pasig police investigation chief, said Boratong was wanted for the killing of PO2 Jason Cueto of the Quezon City Police on Feb. 8 last year. With reports from Jaymee T. Gamil, Kristine Felisse Mangunay, Jodee A. Agoncillo and Ma. Nina Pamela Castro (trainee) in Manila; Greg Refraccion, Armand Galang and Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon; Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Leoncio Balbin Jr., contributor; Delfin T. Mallari, Ma. April Mier and Mar S. Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon; and AFP