Philippine Police Investigate Killing of Drug Suspect in Hospital Bed

Aie Balagtas See and Basilio Sepe
Manila
2020-11-06
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201106-PH-drug-war-620.jpeg A picture of shooting victim Vincent Adia, 27, is on display at his wake in Antipolo city, Philippines, Nov. 6, 2020.
Vincent Go/BenarNews

Philippine police said Friday they were investigating the brazen killing of a drug suspect by a gunman inside a hospital where the victim was taken after being shot hours earlier, apparently by vigilantes.

Vincent Adia, 27, was being treated and had been stabilized at the Angono Annex of the Rizal Provincial Hospital, east of Manila, after being shot three times in a local street early Wednesday morning, the Philippine Human Rights Commission said.

But later that day, a gunman walked into the ward and finished off the victim by firing two shots “in front of” medical staff, according to a statement from the commission.

Philippine National Police chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan said he had ordered a probe into Adia’s murder.

“We are investigating the killing,” he said in a terse statement Friday without adding anything more.

According to a police report, unknown assailants shot Adia three times in the head and left him for dead early Wednesday in an Angono street.

They left a cardboard sign that simply said “pusher” – similar to many unsolved killings of suspected drug dealers who allegedly have been killed by vigilantes during the President Rodrigo Duterte administration’s bloody crackdown on illegal drugs that has been going on since mid-2016.

Motorists spotted Adia, then notified the police and local village officials, who rushed him to the hospital, where medical personnel managed to save him, the police report said.

A gunman, however, slipped through the hospital’s tight security before noon Wednesday and finished him off. Shocked hospital personnel told police that the gunman casually walked toward Adiya’s bed and fired two bullets into the patient, killing him instantly, the police report said.

According to a report by CNN Philippines, the shooting inside the hospital took place after police personnel left Adia alone in his bed. The news service quoted the national police chief, Cascolan, as defending the actions of the officers who allegedly left Adia unguarded.

“There was really no threat anymore. I think our policemen did the right thing. But we will have to investigate why they did not leave any other guard,” the police chief said, according to CNN.

The Human Rights Commission condemned the killing as it called on Duterte’s government “to concretely address the continuing atrocities and vigilante killings” in its war on narcotics.

“The brazenness of the attack is utterly reprehensible, a desecration of the very facility where the sick and wounded are supposed to be treated and saved,” Jacqueline de Guia, spokeswoman for the commission, said in a statement.

“Amid the suffering in this period of pandemic, it is disheartening that extra-judicial killings still persist,” she added.

Vigilantes: meting out ‘hate and vengeance’

During his campaign for the presidency in 2016, Duterte pledged that, if elected, he would wage a war on drug traffickers and dealers as well as end corruption in government.

His administration’s counter-narcotics crackdown has targeted several alleged high-profile narco-politicians, but a majority among the thousands of people killed in the unrelenting drug war have been small-time drug peddlers and addicts.

Faced with two murder charges filed against him at the International Criminal Court, Duterte, 75, last month sought to distance himself from the drug-related killings. He blamed warring criminal gangs for them.

On Wednesday, Cascolan released updated figures on counter-narcotics operations. He said 234,036 operations had been carried out since mid-2016 that led to the arrest of some “357,069 suspects, 7,987 deaths and the surrender of 1,290,768.”

The deaths include homicide cases, which police call “deaths under investigation.”

“We continue to enhance our operations (against) anti-illegal drugs,” Cascolan said in a statement on Wednesday.

The updated figure on deaths marks an increase of nearly 1,500 compared with the 6,500 deaths from the entire drug war reported by police last month.

On Friday, Karapatan, a Manila-based human rights advocacy group, condoled with the family of Vincent Adia.

“How can such a brazen killing occur if we indeed have a professional, reliable and pro-people police force,” Cristina Palabay,  head of Karapatan, told BenarNews, adding that Adia’s killing “was the most vivid example of the level of impunity” in the country.

Chel Diokno, of the Free Legal Assistance Group, which provides pro-bono assistance to victims of rights abuses, said the killing of Adia was not surprising.

“When vigilantes take the law into their own hands, they don’t mete out justice but hate and vengeance,” he said. “That’s not the right foundation to build a nation.”

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