What to do with the increasing number of “isolated cases” of cops killing ordinary, unarmed citizens? Senators ventured different answers on Tuesday, December 22.
The fatal shooting of a mother and her son in Paniqui, Tarlac, by Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca on Sunday, December 20 – captured in a harrowing mobile phone video – has drawn fresh attention to lingering issues involving the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“Baka it’s high time na paigtingin ang value formation sa PNP, kasama na dito ang reorientation kung saan talagang i-emphasize ang kahalagahan ng buhay ng tao, dahil parang iyon ang pagkukulang ngayon sa ating PNP. And sa akin, siguro maganda na dalasan pa ang psychological tests para sa ating kapulisan,” Senator Nancy Binay told DZBB radio on Tuesday.
(Maybe it’s high time to enhance value formation in the PNP, including a reorientation to emphasize the value of human life, because that seems to be what’s lacking in the PNP right now. And for me, perhaps it would be good to run more frequent psychological tests on our police.)
Binay said she agrees with PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana’s statement that most cops are upright. The PNP earlier dismissed cases of police brutality as “isolated cases.”
“Kaso lang…parang paulit-ulit na itong ‘isolated case,’ ‘di ba? So baka it’s high time na, kumbaga, magkaroon ng soul-searching ang ating PNP,” said Binay.
(However…these “isolated cases” seem to happen again and again, right? So maybe it’s high time to, as they say, for our PNP to do some soul-searching.)
Binay questioned the police force’s “nanlaban” or “fought back” narrative to justify killings of supposed crime suspects. She cited the case of Winston Ragos, a retired Philippine Army soldier, whom cops shot dead in Quezon City in April for supposedly violating community quarantine rules.
The police said Ragos had a gun on him, but an investigation later revealed cops planted the evidence on the victim, who was mentally ill.
“Bakit porke’t ‘nanlaban,’ kailangan patayin agad? Hindi ba dapat ang mindset is iyong mahuli ng buhay ang mga suspek? Pero kadalasan nga pinapatay agad, eh,” Binay said.
(Why are they killed just because they “fought back”? Shouldn’t the mindset be to capture the suspect alive? But often, they are killed right away.)
The fact that Nuezca has stayed on in the police force despite having been the subject of at least 6 administrative cases, including two that involved homicide, is bothersome, Binay said.
This and the slew of other police killings this year merit an investigation, she added. Binay, along with fellow senators Sonny Angara, Sherwin Gatchalian, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, and Juan Miguel Zubiri, filed a resolution on Monday, December 21, calling for a probe into police killings.
Death penalty or prison a la Alcatraz?
The tragic deaths of Sonya and Frank Gregorio caused by a policeman’s gun raised the question of whether or not to reinstate the death penalty for heinous crimes.
“That rogue cop deserves [the] death penalty,” said Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the former national police chief who first led President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent anti-drug campaign.
Although his bill proposing to reinstate capital punishment only covers illegal drug trafficking, Dela Rosa pointed out other pending bills that include other heinous crimes. He said these bills may eventually be consolidated into a single measure.
However, the Senate has not tackled the proposal since the 18th Congress began in June 2019. Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said bills to reinstate the death penalty are unlikely to hurdle the chamber, unless their coverage is limited to high-level drug trafficking.
Except for big-time drug lords, suspects of other heinous crimes are difficult to ascertain, and the state may all too easily end up executing the wrong convict, Sotto added.
An alternative, according to Zubiri, the Senate majority leader, is to establish an “Alcatraz-type” prison facility for convicts of heinous crimes.
A bill to this effect authored by Zubiri, Sotto, and Senator Richard Gordon hurdled 3rd and final reading by the Senate in December 2019. Zubiri hopes the House of Representatives would pass its pending counterpart measure soon, he told reporters on Tuesday.
“A life in isolation is a fitting punishment to these murderers, drug lords, rapists, and plunderers…. We truly need this type of maximum security prisons as a deterrent to would-be heinous criminals,” Zubiri said.
Like the infamous Alcatraz prison on an island of the same name in California in the US, the prison Zubiri envisions has every inmate in isolation, with no cellular or Wi-Fi signal to ensure they are cut off from the world and unable to plot nefarious schemes.
“At sa mga gumawa ng karumaldumal na krimen, ay mabubulok naman kayo nang habangbuhay na mag-isa dito sa mga facilities na ito (And to perpetrators of heinous crimes, you will rot forever in these facilities),” said Zubiri.
Who are Nuezca’s ‘padrinos’?
Senator Imee Marcos meanwhile wondered whether Nuezca could be a “regular hitman,” given the brazen, cold-blooded way he shot the Gregorio mother and son.
“Sino mga padrino nito (Who are this guy’s sponsors)? The guy is clearly inured to shooting people like target practice, using his service firearm,” Marcos said in a statement on Tuesday.
Nuezca’s immediate superiors “must automatically be included in the investigation,” she added, citing Republic Act No. 8551 or the PNP Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998.
“Republic Act 8551 needs to be amended and strengthened. Clear lapses are being committed in the psychological and drug tests for police personnel, as well as the periodic review of their behavior,” Marcos added.
Like Binay, Marcos raised concern over the fact that Nuezca was retained in the police force despite walking out of a drug test, and involvement in two homicide cases. – Rappler.com