MANILA, Philippines – "Do you want us to die?"
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa posed the question to critics of the government's war on drugs, who had suggested that cops use Taser guns instead of firearms, and also wear body cameras during their anti-drug operations.
"I don't see any reason why you want to emasculate the PNP. Do you want us to die? You've seen that those killed are armed. And these are drug-crazed people. The Taser, you can use when someone is unarmed and not dangerous," Dela Rosa said on Tuesday, August 16, during a media briefing in Camp Crame.
Dela Rosa summoned top PNP officials on Tuesday for a Command Conference, the second since the former Davao City police chief became top cop. This time next week, Dela Rosa and other top police officials will face a Senate inquiry on alleged extrajudicial killings and summary executions in the course of police operations.
A campaign against illegal drugs, crime, and corruption was among President Rodrigo Duterte's key promises during the 2016 elections. To date, over 600 drug suspects have died in police operations around the country. The same operations have resulted in the arrest of thousands and the surrender of over half a million drug users and pushers.
But the same campaign has earned the ire of critics for supposedly encouraging a culture of violence and vigilantism. Cops have also been accused of taking shortcuts in their campaign against illegal drugs.
Some sectors have suggested that cops be issued stun guns instead of firearms or that body cameras be mandatory to erase all suspicions of wrongdoing on the side of cops. Dela Rosa has always defended his men and women, saying he presumes regularity in their operations.
"I don't see any reason why I will tell my policemen to give [criminals] a chance to kill [them]. No, I will never do that," said Dela Rosa, who pointed out that many of his personnel have either died or were severely injured in operations against illegal drugs.
Besides, Dela Rosa said, he's not here to appease critics.
Dela Rosa, who has said he himself is against extrajudicial killings, said police cannot go unprepared because they are "at war."
"When a policeman goes to a raid, you must be ready to kill or be killed. That's how it is. There is no in-between," added the PNP chief.
On the possibility of issuing body cameras for cops, Dela Rosa had a quick and dismissive answer: "We're having a hard time buying bullets and guns for our personnel and you're thinking of buying cameras? Let's cover the basics that our personnel need to defend themselves and not to defend the other party." – Rappler.com