MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa turned emotional again at a Senate probe involving his men, and cried as he tried to fend off allegations of state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings.
On Tuesday, September 5, Senator Risa Hontiveros said there seemed to be a “pattern” of killings of drug suspects, citing the case of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos and 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz, among others. (READ: Kian and Carl: Parallelism in the deaths of two boys)
Dela Rosa was evidently irked by this and called out the senator for her statement.
“I really felt alluded to na sinasabi mo may umiiral na polisiya sa PNP na malawakang pagpatay sa drug suspects (that you are saying that there's a prevailing PNP policy on the extensive killing of drug suspects),” Dela Rosa said.
Hontiveros corrected Dela Rosa and said she was referring to someone higher than him, in an apparent reference to President Rodrigo Duterte, who has made pronouncements believed to have encouraged and emboldened police to kill drug suspects. (READ: Shoot to kill? Duterte's statements on killing drug users)
“Higher po sa inyo, kaya ho nireresent natin 'yung polisiyang 'yun. Ang PNP kailanman ay hindi dapat ginagawa na killing machine. Mas mataas sa inyo (Higher than you, that's why we resent that policy. The PNP should never be used as a killing machine. Higher than you),” Hontiveros said. (READ: TRANSCRIPT: 'Pag walang baril, bigyan mo ng baril')
Dela Rosa replied: “But your honor, kung mas mataas sa 'kin, di naman ho si Presidente ang chief PNP. Wala kaming pinapairal na policy na malawakang pagpatay – mamatay man ako ngayon.”
(But your honor, if someone higher than me, the President is not the chief PNP. We are not implementing a policy of extensive killings – even if I die today.)
Hontiveros called for “institutional respect” and professionalism, as she said she understood Dela Rosa’s sentiments.
Dela Rosa maintained Duterte has no orders to kill and accused Hontiveros and other critics of the administration's war on drugs of being “closed-minded.”
“Your honor, sabihin ko. Wala president sa akin utos na pumatay nang pumatay. Utak niyo sarado na na may polisiya kami na pumatay kami nang pumatay (Your honor, let me say this. No president ordered me to kill and kill. Your mind is closed that there's a policy for us to kill and kill)," he said.
Hontiveros countered this and said the Senate was open to finding out the truth. “Mr Chair, lahat ng utak sa palibot ay bukas, kaya nga tayo nagdidinig, naghahanap ng katotohanan (Mr Chair, all the minds here are open, that's why we are conducting a hearing, searching for the truth)," she said.
Dela Rosa insisted his view and asked others not to condition the minds of the people.
The PNP chief also said Hontiveros should know him very well. Dela Rosa and Hontiveros’ late husband, Francisco Baraquel Jr, were “mistahs” in the Philippine Military Academy.
Turning emotional, Dela Rosa said: “I am grieving for majority of my men, 'yung buhay nila [nakataya] tapos ia-accuse mo kami ng polisiya na ganoon. Masakit. Magpakamatay kami para sa inosenteng tao. Napakahirap naman sabihin na polisiya.”
(I am grieving for majority of my men, their lives are on the line, then you will accuse us of such a policy. It hurts. We give up our lives for innocent people. It's so hard to hear you say it's a policy.)
“Nandiyan si Lord nakikita nya, I'm willing to go back to Davao. Masama yung sabihin mo ganun. You know me personally, your honor, di ako papayag na gagamitin pulis,” he added.
(With my God as my witness, I'm willling to go back to Davao. It's bad to make that allegation. You know me personally, your honor, I won't allow the police to be used.)
The first time Dela Rosa cried at a Senate probe was in 2016, as a Senate panel conducted a hearing on the spate of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration. At the time, he was asked what he planned to do to restore public trust in the PNP after police killed Albuera mayor Roland Espinosa in an apparent rubout in his jail cell.
Acosta joins, too
After the exchange of Hontiveros and Dela Rosa, Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Acosta interjected and shed tears as well.
Acosta also denied Hontiveros’ statement that PAO said there are “patterns” in the killings.
“Wala po pronouncement ang PAO na may pattern. Walang polisiya dito ang gobyerno. Wala utos na pumatay (PAO has no pronouncement that it's a pattern. There's no such government policy. There's no order to kill),” Acosta said.
Hontiveros countered the PAO chief by reading parts of the transcript of Acosta’s interview with radio dzMM.
“'Ang punto dito buhay ito eh, bakit ganito ang pattern parang may pagkakahalintulad kay Kian.' Magkasunod ito Mr Chairman [Lacson], oras lang din ang bibilangin,” Hontiveros said.
('"My point here is this involves lives, so why is the pattern like this, there seems to be similarities with Kian.'" These happened one after the other, Mr Chairman, just hours apart.) – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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