MANILA, Philippines – At least two senators plan to seek a probe into a Manila policeman, who, according to families of slain suspects, is behind the drug-related killings in Tondo.
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Antonio Trillanes IV are set to file resolutions calling for a Senate investigation to be led by Lacson's committee on public order and dangerous drugs.
The two were reacting to an exclusive report by Rappler, where at least 7 Tondo residents – families and friends of those slain – named PO3 Ronald Alvarez of Manila Police Station 2 as the one who killed Joshua Cumilang, Rex Aparri, Mario Rupillo, and Danilo Dacillo.
Twenty other residents said the alleged encounters in their area were actually summary executions, and accused the police of torture and harassment.
"As chair of the Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs and in the exercise of the Congress' oversight function, I'm interested in getting sworn statements of those Manila residents who I assume have personal knowledge as well as the victims' families and other pertinent records to serve as basis for a Senate resolution that I can file to serve as basis for conducting a hearing," Lacson told Rappler in a text message.
"It will be included in the resolution I would file this week, under the [committee on] public order," Trillanes said in a separate message.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, however, want more information before the chamber takes action. Both are allies of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a text message, Pimentel told Rappler: "Give [the] Senate [a] copy of your report so we can have basis for action."
Sought for comment, Sotto said PO3 Alvarez should be brought to court. The Senate, he said, should wait for the actions of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Malacañang before making any move.
"Then let's bring Alvarez to court. Let's see first what actions will be taken by the PNP and the executive department before we think of any legislative action we can take," Sotto said in a text message.
He also does not think the new information would bolster beliefs that the PNP is behind summary executions. (READ: PNP behind extrajudicial killings – int'l rights group)
"No, not unless an investigation proves they were merely killed and no resisting arrest or fighting back. It's a statement that we need to hear the other side first before any conclusion. Otherwise, you will only rely on one side," Sotto said.
Police Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel of the Manila Police District said he had ordered a review of cases because of the allegations against Alvarez, who remains on active duty as patrolman in Delpan.
"I cannot comment on [Alvarez] other than what appears in his record, because I do not know him personally. So based on the record, if I look, he's an ideal policeman – I mean not an ideal, but he's what, what should I say, an above-average policeman because he's very satisfactory, based on his record."
Coronel added that the other policemen named would have to be investigated too.
"If it can be established there's conspiracy among them, all of them, those who are involved in that operation may be held accountable for murder." – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org