Lawmakers blame Duterte for creating climate of impunity in PNP
It’s all President Duterte’s fault that a South Korean businessman was kidnapped and strangled inside the Philippine National Police headquarters, that policemen involved hid the grisly crime while asking for ransom from his wife, and that the victim’s own golf clubs were used to pay for his cremation.
That’s because of a climate of impunity created by the President when he gave policemen orders to wage a bloody campaign against illegal drugs, according to Sen. Leila de Lima and party-list representatives.
The killing of Jee Ick-joo by policemen has prompted calls from lawmakers for PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa to resign.
But Mr. Duterte has refused to let go of Dela Rosa.
In a speech during the induction of the Negros United Coalition officers on Sunday in Bacolod City, the feisty senator said Jee was a victim of a “tokhang-for-ransom” operation by policemen assigned to the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group.
The Korean was abducted by the police from his house in Angeles City and was killed in Camp Crame in October last year, while his wife paid a
P5-million ransom, not knowing that he was already dead, investigation reports showed.
“That, to me, is damning proof that it is the police that is behind these death squads,” said De Lima, who has accused Mr. Duterte of involvement in extrajudicial killings of criminals since he was mayor of Davao City.
“If you give license to the police to be undertaking those summary executions, then you are also giving them license to do more abuses,” she said.
“The tokhang-for-ransom issue is an example of how evil elements are operating in the guise of our law enforcers. It is a display of how the blanket license to kill given by the President is not just ineffective in addressing the illegal drugs problem, but worse, one that creates a moral vacuum that allows graver crimes to be committed,” she said.
“Oplan Tokhang” is the police campaign to convince drug pushers and users to surrender. More than 1 million have surrendered, but some 6,000 people have been killed in the campaign, including 2,200 in police operations.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Jee’s killing inside Camp Crame “simply goes to show that the depth of corruption has really taken root within government institutions.”
But De Lima said public interest was being raised by the government as an alibi for the rampant commission of crimes.
“Those who are being killed in the war on drugs are the poor, while a big-time drug lord who met with the President has not been charged and appears to have left the country,” she said, referring to Peter Lim, who met with Mr. Duterte to deny allegations that the businessman was a drug lord.
“Let’s make our voices heard, we cannot just keep quiet,” De Lima said. “We have to fight for the rights of all, because if we do not, we are making it easier for our own rights to be abused.”
De Lima called on the public to ignore lies spread on social media that created a culture of hate, alluding to allegations by Mr. Duterte that she received drug payoffs from syndicates operating out of New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary.
Rep. Harry Roque of Kabayan said in a press conference that Mr. Duterte should go slow with his statements that he would support the police “at all cost.”
“This emboldens the police,” Roque said. “There will be more police scalawags if they see that whatever they do, the President’s got their back.”
Roque said Mr. Duterte must clarify his message and show the police that he would not tolerate any crime and he would mete out the worst punishment to them.
Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. of Ako Bicol said the killing of the Korean “was a product of the culture of impunity brought about by the unresolved killings in relation to the war on drugs.”
“Here we saw that the police themselves are involved [in the illegal drug trade] in the guise of the war on drugs… Some policemen, especially those with ties to syndicates, have been emboldened to do these things because they thought these would not be resolved and these would just be forgotten,” Garbin said.
“They should not just focus on [Jee], but on the more than 4,000 nameless Filipinos who have become victims of this war on drugs,” Garbin said.
Roque, however, would not put the blame squarely on Mr. Duterte’s shoulders.
He emphasized that the crimes that became consequences of the war on drugs were part of the “complete systems failure,” a breakdown of the country’s criminal justice system.
“This is the fault of the President, the judiciary, the society which has accepted the killings. People are happy because their communities are quiet now because the [drug suspects] are dead… All of us are responsible here,” Roque said.
What’s more, there are policemen who commit crimes themselves, even right inside their national headquarters, instead of implementing the law, Roque said.
Roque said the extrajudicial killings would not be resolved until the criminal justice system is reformed. “We have to rebuild our damaged institutions,” he said. —WITH A REPORT FROM MARLON RAMOS
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