Dela Rosa’s comment on child’s death in police raid hits the fan
So early in his new career as a lawmaker, Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s way of putting his thoughts into words may already be hitting the fan.
The former Philippine National Police chief who led President Duterte’s bloody drug war, Dela Rosa sparked outrage on Friday after dismissing the killing of a toddler in a police antinarcotics operation with an expletive and as collateral damage.
Human rights advocates condemned Dela Rosa’s comments, while four fellow lawmakers called him out for apparently trivializing the death of 3-year-old Myka Ulpina, who authorities said was used as a human shield by her father in a shootout with the police on July 29.
Officials said Renato Ulpina, the target of a buy-bust operation in Rodriguez town, Rizal province, picked up his daughter as he tried to escape from the gunfight.
The child was hit as Renato was fleeing and died in the hospital the following day. Another suspect and a police officer were also killed in the operation.
At a press conference in the Senate on Thursday, Dela Rosa said: “But of course, we are in an imperfect world. If you’re a policeman, do you want a child to be hit? Never, because you have a child as well. You don’t want something like that to happen.”
“But shit happens during operations, shit happens … No one wants that to happen, but shit happens. During operations shit happens,” he added.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, also a former PNP chief, took Dela Rosa to task for his seeming “nonchalance” over the child’s death.
“One innocent life lost is one life too many. It is not everyday that an innocent civilian, much less a 3-year-old child is caught in the crossfire between law enforcement and criminal elements,” Lacson said.
“Incidents like this should be taken seriously so that corrective measures will be put in place immediately and those responsible must at least be investigated to determine possible lapses or lack of discretion.
“Nonchalance has no place in this situation,” he added.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros also called on Dela Rosa “not [to] trivialize innocent lives lost.”
“Shit happens? Then it’s time to call a plumber and flush this bloody and abusive drug war down the toilet,” Hontiveros said on Twitter.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan warned that “if we only accept it as the reality, instead of condemning it and making those guilty accountable, other children will be killed as well. This is not right and I do not agree with the position that it’s just how reality is.”
“This administration’s legacy stands on the blood of killed children and parents. Stop the killings,” Pangilinan said.
In a statement from her detention cell, Sen. Leila de Lima said: “It is being made to appear that she was killed for obstructing justice after she let her father use her as a human shield, a story that is doubtful in itself as it is absurd. Dela Rosa might as well introduce legislation lowering the age of criminal responsibility to ‘at birth’ because, anyway, ‘shit happens.’”
“It is unfortunate that … Dela Rosa, the first chief enforcer of Duterte’s ‘drug war’ that has killed thousands, would display such uncaring, even contemptuous attitude to [the victim] and, by extension, the dozens of other children killed in the brutal campaign,” Human Rights Watch said.
In Malacañang, however, Dela Rosa found a defender in presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
“What he only meant was, accidents do happen. Who would have wanted a child to die?” Panelo said at a press briefing. “That’s only an expression of the senator. When you say shit, it means something bad, right?”
Dela Rosa served as police chief in the first 21 months of the Duterte presidency, whose antidrug crackdown has officially killed over 6,500 alleged users and dealers—a number rights groups say could be three times higher.
Campaigners say the drug war killings could amount to crimes against humanity. Although the Philippines has pulled out of the International Criminal Court, the war crimes body is pushing ahead with a preliminary examination of the crackdown.
The Commission on Human Rights, an independent government agency, said on Friday it will investigate the Rodriguez shooting.
“Minors caught in the crossfire of the government’s initiative in combating illegal drugs in the country are simply not collateral damages. They are victims. Their hopes and dreams fall short once bullets enter their bodies,” the commission added.
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