Cops linked to drugs, slays
TWO WOMEN who lost loved ones in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs on Monday denounced “scalawags” in the police force, tagging men in uniform as drug suppliers themselves who were behind the execution of their “assets.”
In emotional and detailed accounts, Harra Kazuo and Mary Rose Aquino, the first of 12 witnesses lined up by Sen. Leila de Lima for a two-day Senate hearing, testified about suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths of their loved ones involving the police.
Philippine National Police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa told the chamber that the police had nothing to do with the vigilante killings and that the rotten ones in the force were being made to answer for their crimes.
Dela Rosa readily ordered the sacking of police officers tagged in one of the cases tackled during the four-hour hearing of the Senate committee on justice and human rights headed by De Lima.
“As I have said, my concern does not only revolve around the growing tally of killings reported by the Philippine National Police. What is particularly worrisome is that the campaign against drugs seems to be an excuse for some law enforcers and other elements like vigilantes to commit murder with impunity,” De Lima said.
“How many people need to die before we act to correct this alarming situation?” said De Lima, who pushed through with her probe despite her escalating conflict with President Duterte.
Per Dela Rosa’s report, the number of killings since July 1, when the Duterte administration took office, had reached 1,779: 712 in police operations, and 1,067 outside of police operations, including possible vigilante slays.
“We have nothing to do with vigilante slays, I swear on that,” Dela Rosa said. “The PNP’s stand against extrajudicial killings is uncompromising. If any policeman is found that he violated the law on self-defense, he will be investigated, prosecuted and accordingly punished.”
He said vigilante slays were perpetrated by “syndicate groups involved in illegal drugs.”
“If only the President orders us to stop the war on drugs, then we will just neglect it. We are really exhausted. We are also losing police officers. So if the President orders us to stop, then we will,” Dela Rosa said, replying to a question by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.
Dela Rosa later told reporters that Mr. Duterte was unlikely to back down. “We are tired in the sense that we are going through tough times and still, we appear to be the bad ones. When my people see that my morale is low, they are affected. We might not hit our six-month target if we get weak,” he said.
Case of father, son
Kazuo spoke of the torture and death of live-in partner Jaypee Bertes and his father Renato Bertes on July 7, after their arrest the night before in Pasay City. Three policemen came to their house searching for drugs.
Kazuo said at the time, the family was already preparing for her husband’s surrender for fear that he would end up dead.
Kazuo admitted that her partner both sold and did drugs, while her father-in-law also used the illegal substance.
She said her boyfriend, a former family driver, just got into the trade in May last year to earn enough to get through the day.
Currently 7 months pregnant, Kazuo tearfully said she was even suspected of hiding drugs in her 2-year-old daughter’s underwear. She said policemen shoved her despite her condition.
In forcing her husband to give them his stash, the officers, said Kazuo, even threatened to kill him. To which she pleaded: “Please don’t, sir. Not in front of my child.”
Allegedly beaten en route, father and son were taken to the Pasay City Police Station 4. Kazuo visited the two twice, the last at 10 a.m. of July 7, when her husband, unable to stand properly because of injuries, pleaded to her behind bars: “Have me examined by a doctor.”
When she came back around 4:15 p.m., they were gone.
The Bertes father and son died while in police custody, allegedly after trying to grab a pistol from one of the arresting officers. She said she was told that the two men were rushed to the hospital after they were shot.
“I felt weak because I saw how many shots my husband suffered, and his hand was broken,” she said.
She said that while the Bertes used drugs, they were kind people and had no enemies.
“My point is, not all drug addicts are bad people,” she said of her partner, who she said never hurt her.
She admitted her partner had two previous arrests for drug pushing and gambling (cara y cruz), both of which were allegedly fixed with the police for a fee.
Kazuo could not say why the two were killed. But she was clear on where her partner sourced drugs. “In Pasay, that’s the news there, that it’s police that also supply drugs.”
The Pasay City police chief, Senior Supt. Nolasco Bathan, said that two unnamed police officers were charged on Monday with murder for the Bertes deaths.
Asked if he agreed with the charges, Dela Rosa said: “I will just agree with that, just so they (critics of the drug war) will be happy.”
40 cops implicated
Aquino, daughter of two slain drug pushers, implicated 30 to 40 officers from Antipolo City in the drug trade, testifying that they not only supplied drugs to her parents but also did pot sessions in her family home while in uniform.
She said police officers led by a certain “Rabe” visited her parents about four times a week to get the week’s sales.
“They bring my Papa along in their raids. The drugs they confiscate, they ask my Papa to sell,” she said.
“They bring drugs for my parents to repack. And then they go upstairs, my Mama asks us to come down. I see my Mama and Papa repack while the police do drugs,” Aquino said.
She said her parents had left their home on June 20 with P50,000 in cash for their alleged police bosses. Her mother later got in touch with her uncle in apparent distress, saying: “If we die, it was Hong who killed us.”
Aquino saw her parents next at a morgue, getting news from an officer named “Gamad.” Their bodies had been found separately.
Dela Rosa ordered the administrative relief of the three officers named by Aquino―Rabe, Gamad and Hong or Ong. If investigation warrants it, he said, the entire Antipolo City police station personnel will be sacked.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, one of Mr. Duterte’s closest allies, defended the campaign, saying there were more deaths under the Aquino administration and even blasting the media for compiling a “kill list.”
Citing PNP statistics, he said there were 34 deaths daily in 2015, compared to 20 today.
“The portrayal in the media is that we are now the wild, wild west. But now, respect and fear for the law is restored… Drug lords and their supporters are on the run. People are beginning to feel safe. [There is a] renewed trust in law enforcers,” Cayetano said. With a report from Jerome Aning
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