Marcos tells Philippine police to use force only when needed

Luis Liwanag and Jojo Riñoza
Marcos tells Philippine police to use force only when needed Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (left) speaks with incoming military chief Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro at the change-of-command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo, the military headquarters in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Aug. 8, 2022.
Ezra Acayan/pool photo via AP

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called on police officers Monday to use force only when it is necessary and justifiable, as he warned them about relentless criticism from people who oppose his new government. 

Marcos was addressing members of the 226,000-strong Philippines National Police at a ceremony marking the force’s 121st anniversary, during which he discussed the role of its new leader, Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr.

Human rights groups had accused the national police under Rodrigo Duterte, Marcos’ predecessor who left office in late June, of killing thousands of people during his administration’s war on illegal drugs. 

“In the previous years, the PNP has proven its seriousness and intent to prevent criminality and solve crimes for peace to reign supreme in our land,” Marcos said.

“For instance, the use of force must always be reasonable, justifiable and only undertaken when necessary. Execution of authority must be fair, it must be impartial, it must be devoid of favoritism or discrimination regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status, political affiliation, religious belief and the like,” he said.

Marcos is the son and namesake of Ferdinand E. Marcos, the late Filipino dictator whose government was accused of widespread human rights abuses during 14 years of martial law (1972-1986). The younger Marcos was elected president in a landslide on May 9.

On Monday, Marcos reminded officers that they need to keep the public’s support.

“Given the gravity, the seriousness, the difficulty of the responsibility and relative influence that you carry, it is a must that the application of your mandate is firmly grounded on moral principles, integrity, accountability, and honesty to ensure continued public rapport and support from the public for the PNP,” he said.

Hours later, Marcos attended the change-of-command ceremony where Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro assumed leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Speaking to the police officers, Marcos said Azurin’s mandate is to overhaul the image of the police force, which saw its trust ratings fall during Duterte’s six-year term.

“The obstacles in front of you will be difficult. Let us not try to say that they will not. They might be overwhelming at times. … Baseless and unfair criticism will be forthcoming and this will come from the center, the left and the right,” he said.

“And these attacks, warranted or not, unfortunately will be relentless. But I know that you are made of sterner stuff.”

He also called on the public to stand with police “against those who intend to inflict harm and disorder within our midst.”  

In his own speech at the ceremony, Azurin promised to build on the past and to uphold Marcos’ policies, the state-run Philippines News Agency reported.

“Our collective dedication and focus enabled us to strengthen peace and security and promote public order and safety where it mattered the most, at the grassroots where quality police service is most needed by the Filipino people,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., the new leader of the Philippine National Police, speaks to officers during the 121st Police Service Anniversary at its headquarters in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Aug. 8, 2022. [Philippine National Police/Facebook]

Marcos spoke to police a week after he announced that the Philippines, under his government, would not move to rejoin the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is seeking to investigate drug war deaths under his predecessor.

While in office, Duterte pulled the country out of a treaty that had led to the ICC’s creation. The former president’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpion, is the vice president under Marcos.

About 8,000 suspected addicts and dealers were killed in the Duterte administration’s crackdown on drugs, according to official government statistics. Rights groups have said that the number of killings by police and vigilantes could be three times higher.

An investigation by the justice department last year showed that 154 police were linked to shooting deaths of drug suspects in more than 50 cases it had reviewed. Only three officers have been tried and were found guilty in one case – the murder of Kian Loyd delos Santos, 17, whose killing was captured on CCTV footage.

Change of military command 

While speaking to Philippine troops later in the day, Marcos talked about the task facing Bacarro and the military forces under his command.

“I know that you know well that the journey will not be an easy one. It will be sometimes treacherous, always complex. It will be difficult and at times seemingly unbearable. But with the AFP beside us, assisting and putting in place the fundamental prerequisites for nation-building, we shall overcome and emerge victorious in the end,” Marcos said.

Bacarro, who survived a fierce gunfight with communist rebels in 1991, promised to crush the long-running communist insurgency, which is among various militant groups operating in the Philippines. The military in June placed the communist rebels’ strength at 2,700 nationwide, a far cry from about 25,000 in the 1980s.  

“Over the years, we have seen the value of collaboration in curing the ills of the nation,” he said as he officially took leadership of the military. “The AFP will continue strengthening its partnerships with our peace stakeholders.

“This has been especially effective in ending local communism and even the battling of the coronavirus,” he said.


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