IF Vice President Robredo, the Yellows, Reds and bleeding-heart liberals are really concerned about the value of Filipino lives, which they allegedly claim are being wasted in Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, there are many things they could do rather than blabbering day in and day out, emoting such clichés as “the killings continue.”
How can Robredo ask Duterte to end the anti-drug war when it is his duty to enforce our laws, in this case, so trampled upon by illegal drug gangs?
They should drop their political partisanship and recognize the reality that there is no state policy to exterminate those involved in the illegal drugs trade. Even if Duterte used hyperbolic “kill-them” street talk, we have an entire body of laws, regulations, and manuals that prohibit the killing of a suspect as a strict policy, except in self-defense, which the president cannot repeal.
Yet unjust killings by the police continue to happen. But not just here in the Philippines but in the entire world, from Austria to the US to Angola, which is the phenomenon called police brutality. The US has had worse killings of innocent young black men than say, the killing of the 17-year-old Kian de los Santos by Caloocan police. On April 22, 2015 William Chapman 2nd, an 18-year-old shoplifting suspect, was shot in a Walmart parking lot by Portsmouth, Virginia police officer Stephen Rankin. Did the US press run front-page photos of his dead body, and claim that Obama’s was a “presidency bathed in blood”?
It is not “extrajudicial killings” (EJKs) that is our problem, it is “old-fashioned” police brutality. The term EJK in fact is a highfalutin, politically loaded term invented by US and European NGOs to make any case of police brutality as one sanctioned by the state (usually a Third World one), which should therefore be overthrown — with the help of the US.
“Old fashioned” in the sense that the nature of the police itself anywhere in any culture bears the seeds of cruelty and unnecessary use of force against one’s fellowmen. While you’d have noble policemen so often depicted in movies (i.e., Mel Gibson in “Lethal Weapon”), there are rogue, psychopathic cops (Denzel Washington in “Training Day”).
Saints and sinners
Every government organization will have its share of saints and sinners. The big problem in the case of the police is that the sinner would be armed, and could kill people. And, as so many studies have shown, the police recruit a bigger share of sociopaths, attracted by the power (and arms) given to them. One unique situation a policeman also confronts everyday is that he is a target of criminals, especially when they are being arrested, and in many cases it is in matter of a moment that he has to decide whether he is to kill or be killed.
Until the entire police force reaches a level of moral and intellectual sophistication, or achieves the highest level of control of themselves in life-and-death situations, we will always be confronted by the prospect of police brutality.
In the meantime, here are the things those so outraged by the police killings in the wake of Duterte’s anti-drug war, can do:
1. Organize or fund researchers and lawyers who will investigate actual cases of killings by the police, and prosecute those responsible for it. This is not impossible. Even during martial law, young lawyers organized a Free Legal Aid Group (FLAG), which was effective in mitigating military abuses until it metamorphosed into a primarily political group opposing the Marcos dictatorship. Have you heard of Robredo devoting a drop of the P2 billion funding she has received for her office, to pay a lawyer to represent relatives of victims of police brutality?
2. Document every instance of a killing by the police, including the actual names of the policemen who were involved, and their supervisors. With their official explanation, convince newspapers to publish these. The Philippine Daily Inquirer or the internet news site Rappler, I’m sure, will be happy to do this. Both foreign and local photographers boast how good their work have been with their dramatic photos of corpses killed in Duterte’s anti-drug war. I haven’t seen a single photo of the policemen who did the shooting, with a caption identifying him and his precinct.
3. Lobby for the enactment of a law that would require policemen to undergo more rigorous training — for example, the 130 weeks for the German police or even just the US’ 19 weeks. In these courses, police are put under simulated extreme pressure situations where they are taught that reaching for a gun may not be the best move, and are taught many alternatives to gun violence, like pepper spray and batons. Honestly, how would you react if in some dark alley, the supposed suspect in an operation suddenly appears with something in his hand? These are the kind of the situations which more rigorous police training would result in less unnecessary deaths.
4. Lobby for the enactment of a body independent of the Philippine National Police tasked to investigate accusations against the police, such as the killing of suspects under custody or in arrest operations. Right now, there is such an organization created under the “PNP Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998” (Republic Act 8551) called the Internal Affairs Service, headed supposedly by the Inspector General who under that law is required to be a civilian.
But who has heard of Alfegar Triambulo, the Inspector General since December 2016, even with the flood of accusations — even from overseas — of police killings here? But at least he was quoted in media recently: “The current set-up of the IAS, being under the PNP, defeats the real intention of why it was created. The Internal Affairs in other countries are independent, they can remove chiefs of police and that is the reason why their independence is really strong,” Triambulo said.
There is in fact a bill filed in Congress by Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list representative Koko Nograles seeking to amend the 1998 RA 8551 to create an internal affairs unit apart from the PNP structure. Have you heard Robredo, and all of these Red,Yellow and Church blabbermouths condemning “EJKs” to the high heavens talk about Nograles’ bill, which if it becomes law could strike fear in the hearts of rogue, murderous policemen?
But of course this kind of work will not help to paint a picture of Duterte as a “president bathed in blood,” with its press muzzled out of fear, will they?