Lacson warns cops ‘shoot-on-sight’ order is murder
If a policeman opens fire upon seeing a person suspected of engaging in an illegal drug activity and kills him, the act constitutes murder, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Lacson made the statement on Wednesday after Philippine National Police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa issued a “shoot-on-sight” order against Kerwin Espinosa, a suspected drug lord in Eastern Visayas and a son of Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera, Leyte province.
The elder Espinosa, heeding a 24-hour deadline issued by President Duterte to surrender or die, gave himself up to Dela Rosa on Tuesday.
Echoing the President’s earlier orders, Dela Rosa warned Kerwin Espinosa to surrender or die, saying he was known to be “armed and dangerous.”
‘No such thing’
“There’s no such thing. That was just bravado in the statement, because as a law enforcement officer, General Dela Rosa knows there’s no such thing as a ‘shoot-on-sight’ or ‘shoot-to-kill’ [order],” said Lacson, a former PNP chief.
“If they do that, then that would clearly be murder. Because shoot on sight means just because you suspect someone or the President declared that someone is a drug lord and you will kill him … That’s a violation of the law,” said Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs.
The police may only justifiably shoot someone if it is “in self-defense or in defense of a stranger or another person,” he added.
Asked if he believed Dela Rosa’s order was a scare tactic, Lacson said: “Whatever is the motive, whatever is the reason he said that, that’s for him to say. But he knows that he can’t do that, that that can’t be done by any police officer.”
Sen. Leila de Lima, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said: “The President very well knows what is allowed under the law … “Of course, if there is resistance, if [the suspect] uses violence and force, then that’s justified. But per the PNP operational guidelines, that is the last resort—the use of force.”
De Lima, who issued an emphatic call for an end to the string of drug-related deaths in a privilege speech on Tuesday, is keen to push through with her legislative inquiry into possible excesses in police operations even while some of her colleagues “have reservations” about pushing through with the investigation.
“I feel confident. There might be one or two members who have reservations, but I feel the majority will support me,” she said.
Lacson had earlier expressed his opposition to such probe, saying the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights were the proper agencies to pursue such an investigation.
But he will join the inquiry nonetheless, as De Lima’s resolution that initiated it was also referred to his committee.
If police officials will be invited to the investigation, Lacson said he would inquire about inside information he had received from the PNP that placed the body count to at least 600.
“So I will ask them, how many among the 600 are summary executions where the suspects were unidentified or are vigilante groups? How many are already under investigation? How many or do they have any leads? In how many cases have they identified suspects? In how many cases have they already filed or are set to file cases? If there is none, then we have a big problem,” he said.
He said the police should resolve the murder cases, saying they might draw the perception that “at the very least, they have been tolerating [the killings] or, at worst, that they might be sponsoring it,” Lacson said.
“For all intents and purposes, those are murder cases, because it’s not the police who are doing that. It’s clear that these are killings … And we’re talking about 600 cases. If these are unresolved, then that is worrisome. There is reason for the citizenry to be alarmed,” he said.
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