PHILIPPINE National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa on Tuesday denied that it was state policy to kill drug suspects.
Dela Rosa spoke after Senator Risa Hontiveros said during a hearing of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs that the PNP should not be used as a killing machine by higher authorities in the wake of the killing of two teenagers, Kian delos Santos, 17, and Carl Arnaiz, 19, in anti-drug operations.
“I don’t believe that some of the policemen were merely [killing in] blood-lust,” said Hontiveros. She said there was a policy dictating a culture of killing.
“There’s madness….Our enemies are big, not just one or two policemen but a bigger policy that allows killing in the name of war on drugs,” Hontiveros said.
She added that she was not referring to Dela Rosa, but to “a higher official.”
But Dela Rosa said President Rodrigo Duterte has not ordered the police to kill drug suspects.
“You are referring to the President,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“Even if I die where I’m sitting, there is no state policy to kill. If you can prove that, your honor, I will return to Davao and step down from my post.”
Dela Rosa asked Hontiveros not to condition the public into believing that the police have been ordered to kill.
“Let us not precondition the minds of Filipinos to believe that their police have been ordered to keep killing. How can I defend this agency if the people’s minds are closed?” he said.
Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda Acosta denied Hontiveros’ claim that she saw a pattern in the killing of drug suspects.
“There has been no pronouncement by the PAO about such a pattern. There is no government policy to kill mercilessly,” she said in Filipino.
She said the Revised Penal Code provided that police officers could use force if their lives were threatened in the course of going after suspects.
“That’s why we have 80,000 clients in jail, because they were arrested by the police. We also have many clients who are police,” she said.
“There’s a similarity in the cases of Kian and Carl. They’re both teenagers, both of their mothers work abroad, they both work in sari-sari stores, both look decent but were tagged as drug suspects. We never spoke of a pattern. I’m hurt by that because I work in the government,” Acosta added.
But Hontiveros pointed to a radio interview where Acosta said there was a pattern in the Arnaiz case that followed that of Kian.
After the hearing, Dela Rosa said he believed there was politics involved in Hontiveros’ statement.
“Why is she conditioning the minds of people?” he said in Filipino.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said he believed Dela Rosa when he said there was no order to kill drug suspects.
Early in the hearing, Dela Rosa slammed as unfair talk of a pattern of killing in the recent anti-crime operations.
The PNP, he said, was 175,000 people focused on the drug war.
“What do you expect? Somebody would really be killed. You do not consider my men who are being killed. I have 75 killed. That’s unfair,” Dela Rosa said.
Saying 120,000 suspects were arrested alive, the PNP chief insisted it’s unfair to say there’s a pattern of killing.
He said the PNP leadership does not cover up for its personnel who commit abuses, but agreed with Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV that summary killings are wrong. However, he reitetared there was no order from the President to kill during police operations in the anti-drug campaign.
Asked by Lacson what he thought was the long-term solution to killings and abuses committed by policemen, Dela Rosa suggested that the training of police aspirants be given back to the PNP.
“In the whole world,, we are the only police agency which is not training its own people,” he said.
The training of police aspirants is handled by the Philippine Public Safety College.
Dela Rosa admitted the lack of discipline among some police officers, especially the new recruits, while Lacson said discipline could be developed during training.
Lacson also recommended that non-commissioned officers be rotated to other stations to avoid over-familiarity.
He noted that PO1 Arnel Oares, one of those accused in the killing of Delos Santos, has been assigned in Caloocan since 2004.