President Rodrigo Duterte's first police chief faces off with the opposition's senatorial bet, former Mindanao assemblywoman Samira Gutoc
MANILA, Philippines – What if your own son died in the crossfire of a police anti-drug operation?
This was the questioned posed by opposition senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc to the architect of the police's infamous Oplan Tokhang himself, Ronald dela Rosa, a candidate endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Sir Bato, may asawa ka, may anak ka. Kung mamamatay anak mo sa collateral damage, ano kaya ang sentimyento mo?" she asked during "Debate 2019: The GMA Senatorial Faceoff," aired by GMA News on Saturday, February 9.
(Sir Bato, you have a wife, a child. If your child died as collateral damage, what would be your sentiments?)
"How will you convince survivor families that you will stand up for the human rights of those who died during your Tokhang operations?" she added in Filipino.
Gutoc, a Muslim peace activist and former Mindanao assemblywoman, was paired with Dela Rosa, Duterte's first police chief, during the 2nd round of GMA's senatorial debate.
'Justice in heaven'
Dela Rosa's response was to say the Philippine National Police (PNP) continue to weed out abusive personnel from their ranks.
"Ang mga namatayan ay itong advice ko sa kanila: yung ating internal cleansing program ng PNP ay tuloy-tuloy 'yan," he said.
(To those whose loved ones died, this is my advice to them: our internal cleansing program in the PNP continues.)
He said "many" police personnel now face cases. He then asked Filipinos to have faith in the country's criminal justice system.
"Magtiwala lang sila sa ating criminal justice styem. Ito ay gumagana kaso lang mabagal (They should have faith in our criminal justice system. It works, but it's slow.)," said Dela Rosa.
But if the Philippine justice system is too slow or ineffective, the former top cop said drug war victims can be sure of one thing: justice will be served in heaven.
"Pero ito, itaga mo sa bato, kung hindi mo makuha ang hustisya dito sa lupa, makukuha mo 'yan sa langit dahil tayong lahat ay mananagot sa Poong May Kapal pagdating ng araw," he said.
(But mark my words, if you don't get justice on earth, you will get it in heaven because all of us will have to answer to God when the time comes.) – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.