Lacson urges Church to present 'reformed' cops in Senate probe

MANILA, Philippines – Senate public order committee chair Panfilo Lacson urged the Catholic Church to present “reformed” policemen to testify against state-sponsored killings.

Lacson made the call on Monday, October 2, during the 2nd Senate hearing on the killings of minors.

Lacson was reacting to the statements of Father Robert Reyes, who said the government’s drug war has encouraged killings.

"Men in uniform or whether vigilante groups, that’s immaterial. Di po individual policemen ang problema (The problem is not the individual policement.) It is the directive of the highest official that has been consistently turning policemen to run after drug pushers, drug addicts, people involved in the drug business. Not only to arrest them but, bahala na kayo sa kanila (It's up to you what to do with their lives),” Reyes said.

He also said many victims and witnesses have sought refuge in the Catholic Church because of lack of trust in the Philippine National Police. (READ: Police seek Catholic Church protection to testify on EJKs)

Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines’ outgoing president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrated Villegas also said on Monday that cops have sought the protection of the Church to testify on extrajudicial killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

Lacson then told Reyes: “Father Robert, nabasa ko po pahayag ni Archbishop Socrates, welcome po sana kung meron po kayo mapapdala dito na magtetestify. Nakikita mo naman po how we handle our hearings dito.” (Father Robert, I read the statement of Archbishop Socrates. We welcome here if you can send anyone of them to testify. You've witnesses how we handle our hearings here.)

Opo (Yes) we will do our best to bring [them],” Reyes responded.

Lacson said it is better to hear the stories and testimonies of the policemen and victims first-hand.

“Sana po para diraktamente naming marinig mga pulis nagpunta na sa mga simbahan at gusto na mag-testigo, di lang po yun, yung mga biktama, welcome naman po pumunta dito... Mahirap ho ung third person nagte-testify, on behalf of those who witnessed or have experienced yung sinasabing kasalanan ng pulis,” Lacson said. (We hope so, so we can directly hear the testimonies of the policemen who went to the church. And not just them, even victims are also welcome here. It's difficult to hear a third-person testimony, on behalf of those who witnessed or have experienced allege abuses of the police.)

“Hinahanap po talaga natin dito, sabi nga ni Senator Bam, ay yung long-term solution. Hindi naman pwede ito masolve ng pulis, ng committee. Sa tulong nga ng simbahan, sana po mapadala 'nyo dito yung sinasabi na mga pulis na nagbalik loob at nagtitiwala sa simbahan at kung sila may statements na, mas mainam po iyon,” he added.

(We are really looking for a long-term solution. This cannot be solved by the police or by the committee alone. With the help of the church, we hope you can send here those supposed reformed cops who trust the church and if they already have statements, that would be better.)

Lacson has set the next hearing on Tuesday, October 10. He said the committee will invite PO1 Vincent Tacorda of Catanduanes, who earlier alleged that his superiors gave 'kill orders' against drug suspects. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

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 camille.elemia@rappler.com

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