Pubdate: Tue, 23 Aug 2016
Source: Philippine Star (Philippines)
Copyright: PhilSTAR Daily Inc. 2016
Author: Paolo Romero


The witnesses' narratives had a common thread: the victims were 
low-level drug pushers silenced by corrupt law enforcers who were 
either their protectors or suppliers in the illegal drug trade.

This emerged at the first Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings 
led by the committee on justice and human rights, chaired by Sen. 
Leila de Lima, and the committee on public order and illegal drugs 
chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa 
told the joint hearing that as of yesterday, the PNP had tallied 712 
suspects killed in legitimate operations, of whom 269 were reported 
in Metro Manila, since the Duterte administration launched its war on 
drugs on July 1.

However, the PNP also recorded 1,067 killed "outside police 
operations" or apparently by vigilantes, he said.

"Frankly, I have never seen anything on the scale of the current 
anti-illegal drug campaign under this administration," said Lacson, a 
former PNP chief.

"The momentum that the police have gained over a short period through 
life-risking work of fighting illegal drugs must not be deterred by 
legislative inquiries like what we are conducting right now," he said.

The inquiry pushed through despite what De Lima claimed were attempts 
by no less than President Duterte to pressure her not to conduct it, 
including linking her and her former driver-bodyguard to illegal drugs.

De Lima surmised the Duterte administration's war against drugs, 
including calling for the death of drug pushers, was encouraging 
extrajudicial killings.

To prove her point, she presented witnesses, including 26-year-old 
Harra Kazuo, whose common-law husband JP Bertes and his father Renato 
Bertes were allegedly taken from their house in Pasay City on the 
night of July 6 by local policemen, and fatally shot in a police 
station the following day.

Kazuo said three policemen barged into their house that night looking 
for drugs and beat up the two men.

The same group of policemen arrested her husband for illegal gambling 
several months ago and freed him on a P20,000 bribe. JP was arrested 
a few months later by the same group for possession of "shabu 
(methamphetamine hydrochloride)" but again let him off after they 
were bribed by Kazuo.

She also disclosed that one of the police officers stripped her 
two-year-old daughter and searched her private parts. He also wanted 
to strip search her but she begged not to be touched as she was pregnant.

"They (Berteses) were kind and my husband wanted to follow Papa 
(Renato) and surrender the following morning. We talked about it," a 
teary-eyed Kazuo said in Filipino. "Not all drug addicts are bad. 
They can change for the better."

The second witness, 23-yearold Mary Rose Campos, testified that her 
mother and father  Rodelio and Rosalie  were killed by Antipolo City 
policemen, who had been supplying her parents with shabu to sell.

Campos disclosed that her father was also an "asset" of anti- 
narcotics policemen of Antipolo City, while selling drugs. Her mother 
was forced to accompany him in his dealings, fearing her husband 
would be killed.

She said on the day her parents disappeared, they ignored calls 
coming from a certain Rabe, who is a police officer. She said her 
parents wanted out of the drug trade.

Her father finally answered the phone, putting it on speaker for his 
children to hear. The caller was so angry and asked her father to see 
him to "remit" sales for the shabu.

Campos disclosed drugs confiscated by the policemen were repacked in 
their house in Antipolo City to be sold later.

She said sometimes the same policemen would hold pot sessions in 
their house. She said about 30 to 40 policemen from Antipolo City are 
involved in illegal drugs, based on their visits to their house.

She learned of her parents' death two days later when one of the 
policemen  a certain Gammad  informed her that he saw her parents in 
the morgue.

There were 12 witnesses but only two were able to testify due to lack 
of time. Affidavits seen by The STAR, however, included another case 
from Antipolo City and one from Cagayan province involving agents 
from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

The other affidavits were from minors.

A Senate staff said the minors would testify today but they would be 
withheld from view.


Pasay City police chief Superintendent Nolasco Bathan said following 
an investigation, two of his men accused in the Bertes deaths were 
charged with murder.

The Commission on Human Rights conducted an investigation into the 
case and found out there was "arbitrary deprivation of human life."

Dela Rosa expressed alarm over Campos' testimony and ordered the 
relief of the Antipolo City policemen identified by the witness.

He said the war against drugs is extremely difficult and deadly but 
they will not tolerate abuses.

"The PNP's stand against extrajudicial killings is uncompromising. On 
the speculation of vigilante killings, the PNP does not and will 
never condone vigilante killings," he said at the start of the hearing.

Dela Rosa said he had already emphasized the vigilante killings are 
"perpetuated by various syndicate groups involved in illegal drugs."

Any police officer found to have killed a suspect, except out of 
self-defense, would be "investigated, prosecuted and accordingly 
punished," he said.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who was opposing the conduct of the inquiry 
on the grounds that it was premature, said De Lima was not being 
totally honest in the inquiry and was in effect derailing the 
anti-drug campaign.

He said critics of the Duterte administration are wrongfully branding 
all drug-related casualties as "extrajudicial killings."

To prove his point, he cited Administrative Order 35 under the Aquino 
administration, which presented a more specific definition of 
extrajudicial killings.

Under the order, killings involving common criminals were not 
classified as extrajudicial.

The senator said before the Duterte administration, most murders 
involving common crimes were merely classified as "riding-in-tandem" 
cases. In fact, of the 1,400 people killed during the Aquino 
administration, only 394 were categorized as extrajudicial killings.

De Lima, who signed the guidelines of the AO, knows the victims of 
extrajudicial killings are members of groups with advocacies like 
political, labor, agrarian and similar causes, and members of media.

"The people support the anti-drug war, criminals don't. Criminals and 
drug pushers are spending money now, anything to discredit this 
administration to continue their multibillionpeso business," he said.

Meanwhile, a total of 130 of over 99,000 policemen who underwent drug 
tests nationwide were found positive for shabu use, said PNP Crime 
Laboratory head Chief Superintendent Emmanuel Aranas.

Aranas said the ranks of the 130 police officers were from chief 
inspector down to police officer 1, the lowest rank in the PNP.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom