Philippine Police Chief Denies Existence of Policy to Kill Drug Users, Dealers

Felipe Villamor
170905-PH-drugs-620.jpg A man expresses his concerns over the war on drugs in the Philippines during the funeral of teenager Kian Loyd delos Santos, Aug. 26, 2017.
Felipe Villamor/BenarNews

Appearing before a Senate inquiry on Tuesday, an emotional Philippine police chief denied there exists a policy to kill innocent people in President Rodrigo Duterte’s sweeping war on drugs.

Philippine National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa’s testimony came a week after Duterte met with the parents of a 17-year-old boy whose killing during a drug sweep sparked widespread indignation. Duterte assured them there will be a speedy investigation.

“We will lay our lives for the innocent,” a tearful dela Rosa told the nationally televised inquiry investigating the death last month of Kian Loyd delos Santos.

“It is not correct to say that there is a policy sanctioning widespread killing. God is there, he sees. He knows,” dela Rosa said, adding that he is willing to step down from his post if proven otherwise.

The boy’s killing galvanized the opposition against Duterte’s crackdown, in which more than 8,000 alleged addicts and dealers have been killed by police or vigilantes. He was among nearly 100 alleged drug users and pushers who were killed last month in the bloodiest week in Duterte’s drug war.

Complaints filed against 3 police

Murder complaints have been filed by the public prosecutor against three police involved in delos Santos’ death, and a closed-circuit television camera belied their claim that the boy was gunned down after he pulled a gun on the officers. The footage showed him being led away and he was later found slumped to the ground, apparently shot execution style.

His death came shortly after 15 people were killed by the police in the south, including a mayor included on a list of 150 politicians, judges, police and military officers Duterte said were involved in the drug trade. Despite publicly naming the officials, the president has offered no proof of their involvement.

Dela Rosa on Tuesday emphasized that Duterte did not give police the power to “kill and kill.”

“One-hundred seventy-five thousand policemen. How can I defend my organization if you have already made up your minds that we have that policy,” dela Rosa said, challenging the senators.

His protestations came amid news that a young man, Carl Arnaiz, 19, was found dead last week about 10 days after he was reported missing.

Police claimed Arnaiz had held up a taxi and fought it out with officers. Investigators reported he had a pistol and methamphetamine, but an autopsy revealed the teen apparently was gunned down in a similar manner to delos Santos.

Senator speaks out against Duterte

While Arnaiz’s death did not attract the same media attention, Sen. Leila de Lima said it served to “demonstrate in palpable and irrefutable ways, that our police force under Duterte has been converted into cold-blooded executioners.

“The psyche of these uniformed state agents now conforms to that of our butcher president,” de Lima said in a statement issued from detention.

De Lima was Manila’s former rights commissioner who has been jailed, ironically, on charges of allegedly using drug money to fund her campaign last year. The charges were filed by Duterte’s chief legal enforcer and fraternity brother, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.

Duterte on Tuesday came to the defense of dela Rosa, saying his police chief was just emotional because “he’s hurt” by the accusations.

“Do you think that two killings, even if illegal, will make (it) a (police) policy?” Duterte asked. “It’s an insult to say it’s a policy of the police to kill.”

At the beginning of drug crackdown last month when just over 30 of the nearly 100 had been killed, Duterte publicly praised the police for doing a good job, and urged them to kill more.

“If we can kill another 32 every day, then maybe we can reduce what ails this country,” Duterte said at the time.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.