Dela Rosa: No policy to kill suspects
“I swore on my life, the President did not order me to kill drug suspects,” the chief of the Philippine National Police said crying on Tuesday as he faced a Senate investigation after the killing of another teenager by Caloocan City policemen.
PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa broke down as he protested Sen. Risa Hontiveros’ statement that there was a policy to kill drug suspects in President Duterte’s fierce war on drugs.
Dela Rosa told Hontiveros at the second hearing on the police killing of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos that he was hurt by her statement and asked how he could defend the 175,000-strong police force that was just doing its job with that conclusion.
Thousands of killings in his war on drugs notwithstanding, President Duterte issued a statement rejecting Hontiveros’ observation.
“Do you think two killings, even if it is illegal, will make a policy?” he said.
“Let’s say it’s murder. I ask Hontiveros, is that already a policy? Is that a baseline policy? She is so stupid,” he said.
Later, he said: “One swallow makes a summer? Two killings make it a policy of the Republic of the Philippines? Why would we kill innocents?”
Thousands have been killed in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, according to official and independent estimates.
The Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs on Tuesday resumed its hearing on the killing of Delos Santos who was shot dead by Caloocan police on Aug. 16 allegedly because he was a drug runner.
The committee also tackled for the first time the Aug. 18 killing of Carl Arnaiz, a 19-year-old former student of the University of the Philippines whom police claimed they shot dead when he fought back after robbing a taxi driver in Caloocan City.
The almost four-hour-long hearing also saw a 31-year-old woman identified only as “MC” who pointed to two of the three policemen who were seen dragging away Delos Santos before the boy was killed near his house in Caloocan City.
Protection for witnesses
Also on Tuesday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said a primary witness to the killing of Delos Santos, identified only as “Choleng,” had been provisionally admitted into the Witness Protection Program.
Aguirre said the parents of Arnaiz, who are disputing the police account of the boy’s killing, likewise had been provisionally admitted into the program.
Hontiveros was in her second round of questioning when she stated that there was a government policy of killing drug suspects.
Dela Rosa reacted, saying he felt alluded to.
Hontiveros said she was not referring to Dela Rosa but to someone “higher than you” and that the policy was wrong because the PNP should not be turned into a “killing machine.”
Dela Rosa said Hontiveros was referring to Mr. Duterte, but he denied that the President had ordered the killing of drug suspects.
“Let me die now on my seat but we never made such policy of widespread killing of drug suspects,” Dela Rosa said.
“If you can prove there is such a policy, right now I will go home to Davao and remove myself as PNP chief,” he added.
Hontiveros said she heard him and she hoped he would be part of the “solution.”
Persida Rueda-Acosta, chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), also cried as she denied Hontiveros’ statement to the committee that her office saw a “pattern” in the police killings of drug suspects.
“The PAO has not made any announcement of pattern in police killings. The government has no such policy,” Acosta said.
She clarified that what she had said was seeing similarities in the killings of Delos Santos and Arnaiz.
But Hontiveros stood her ground, saying Acosta spoke about the case of Arnaiz in a radio interview.
The senator asked the PNP to submit reports on the killings of Delos Santos and other drug suspects.
Dela Rosa replied that if Hontiveros already had a “prejudgment” that there was a policy of killing drug suspects, then probably the PNP did not have to submit documents anymore.
‘I swear to God’
Dela Rosa swore to God that there was no policy to kill drug suspects and cautioned Hontiveros to be “careful” with her words.
He insisted the senator knew him personally.
“I will not allow the police to be used,” he said.
After the hearing, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the committee chair, said he was inclined to believe Dela Rosa.
“For him to tell that God knows, that he swore on his life that there was no order to kill drug pushers, I’m more inclined to believe that he was telling the truth,” Lacson told reporters.
But Lacson said his committee was trying to establish if indeed there was a pattern of police “shooting first before asking questions.” —WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND MARLON RAMOS
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