MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson urged President Rodrigo Duterte to "encourage" members of the Philippine National Police to attend the Senate probe into the rampant drug-related killings.
With Duterte himself defending Senator Leila De Lima on the inquiry, Lacson said he is hoping for full cooperation on the part of the police. (READ: Duterte defends De Lima: She's just doing her job)
"We just hope it's really full cooperation because saying that he (Duterte) understands and he welcomes and understands the work of [Senator] Leila De Lima, he did not say that he will order the police to cooperate. So that's another thing," Lacson said in mix of English and Filipino on Thursday, August 4.
De Lima is the chairperson of the Senate committee on justice and human rights and is widely perceived as a Duterte critic when it comes to human rights.
The attendance of police officials, Lacson said, would also prevent a possible "deadlock" between the Senate and the executive - something that the chamber wishes to avoid.
"Kung 'di sila makikisama ano'ng next move na gagawin ng Senate? (If they don't cooperate, what will be the Senate's next move?) Shall we advise the Senate President to issue subpoenas? Kung 'di pa rin pupunta at mag-dig in ang ating kapulisan? (If the police will continue to ignore the subpoena and just dig in?) But I think they should be encouraged to attend, if only to be transparent in what they are doing," he added.
No less than Solicitor General Jose Calida – barely two weeks in office – advised the PNP against attending the congressional hearing, which he described as "in aid of media mileage."
600 killings in just a month
While he lauded Duterte's fight against drugs, Lacson, a former PNP chief, is now "alarmed" over the proliferation of extrajudicial killings.
Citing "well-informed" sources, Lacson said the PNP has so far recorded 600 cases of vigilante killings for the month of July alone.
"When I mentioned to him (source) about the alarming number of vigilante killings na nasa mahigit 200, he corrected me right away. Sabi niya, 'Actually sir hindi lang 200, nasa mga 600 na.' All the more I got surprised. I told him, 'Totoo ba ang sinasabi mo? At ito ba when you say 600, does this include those killed in police operations?' Sabi niya 'Hindi, sir. Ito vina-validate namin,'" Lacson said.
(When I mentioned to him (source) about the alarming number of vigilante killings which have gone past 200 cases, he corrected me right away. He said, 'Actually sir it's not just 200, it's almost 600 now.' All the more I got surprised. I told him, 'Are you telling the truth? And when you say 600, does this include those killed in police operations?' He said, 'No, sir. We are still validating it.')
Lacson said the PNP has yet to confirm the statistics in a conference workshop set for Friday, August 5.
For the senator, Duterte should order an investigation into the issue of extrajudicial killings plaguing his administration.
"'Yan ang hinihintay ko. Kaya 'pag nagkaroon ng hearing, tanungin natin, policy na ba ito na pabayaan n'yo lang magkaroon ng summary killings? I have yet to hear a pronouncement from the Palace and even from General (Ronald) dela Rosa na meron silang ginagawa to solve those cases or find solution sa summary killings," Lacson said.
(That's what I'm waiting for. When the hearing starts, let's ask, is it a policy now to just allow summary killings? I have yet to hear a pronouncement from the Palace and even from General Ronald dela Rosa that they are doing something to solve those cases or to find a solution to summary killings.)
Walk the talk
Challenging the institution he once headed, Lacson said the PNP should walk its talk against summary killings. If the police fail to give clear information and established leads involving these deaths, their attention should be called, Lacson said.
"Hindi ito 5 or 10, talagang napakarami na. And hanggang ngayon kung tahimik pa rin ang kapulisan, kung wala silang briefing man lang kung anong leads na-establish, dapat talaga kalampagin natin sila. Ano ba talaga position or policy ninyo pagdating sa vigilante killings? Of course they already said they don't tolerate or condone summary killings by vigilante groups, but nasaan ang pruweba di n'yo tino-tolerate?" he added.
(This is not just 5 or 10, it's really rampant. Until now, if the police are still quiet and if they have no briefing on whatever established leads they have, they should be called out. What is really your position or policy involving vigilante killings? Of course they already said they don't tolerate or condone summary killings by vigilante groups, but where is the proof you are not tolerating it?)
With the killings left and right, Lacson has had a change of heart. He earlier said the Senate is not the right place to investigate the issue, but now supports De Lima's initiative.
Lacson is the chairman of the Senate committee on public order, the secondary committee tasked to look into the issue.
"If only for vigilante killings, I think that's right, there is a necessity to look into it. Our question is, has it become a policy now to just turn a blind eye to vigilante killings?" he said in a mix of English and Filipino. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com