Woman’s Killing Thrusts Philippine Police Brutality into Spotlight Anew

Marielle Lucenio
Woman’s Killing Thrusts Philippine Police Brutality into Spotlight Anew Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar (second from right), points at suspect Hensie Zinampan during a press briefing in Manila, June 1, 2021.
Handout Philippine National Police

The case of a police officer suspected of shooting a woman dead at close range has put a spotlight back on extrajudicial deaths in the Philippines, where rights groups have criticized the government for thousands of killings by cops in the nation’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

The Monday night slaying, which was caught on a mobile-phone camera, showed Master Sgt. Hensie Zinampan, dressed in plain clothes, allegedly drawing a gun as he approached the victim, Lilybeth Valdez, 52, before shooting her in the back of the head, authorities said.

“This is a heinous unacceptable crime because the police are supposed to protect our countrymen and not act as criminals,” National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar told reporters as he ordered officers to speed up the investigation into Zinampan, 42, who was assigned to the Police Security Protection Group. 

Eleazar said that based on a video that went viral on social media, Zinampan allegedly was holding his gun before he approached the victim.

“He then grabbed the victim and shot her at close range like a chicken,” Eleazar said.  

Valdez was buying cigarettes at a store in a dark alley in Quezon City, north of Manila. A heated exchange ensued before Zinampan allegedly grabbed Valdez and shot her.

A visibly angry Eleazar confronted Zinampan who was detained at a police camp Tuesday morning.  

“I have asked that the administrative case against this cop be quickly filed so he can be taken out of the PNP,” Eleazar said, referring to the Philippine National Police. “This is separate from a criminal case against him so the victim will receive justice.” 

Duterte: ‘My police and my army are trained to kill’

On the same day Valdez was gunned down, President Rodrigo Duterte told a national television audience that police records to do with raids carried out as part of his administration’s war on illegal drugs contained information about suspects that should stay confidential. 

Some of this information could affect “national security,” he said.

“We have records of those who died, who have derogatory records in our files and there are references to people and we cannot divulge it to anybody except to the military and police,” Duterte said. 

The president did say that rights groups could question the manner of specific raids, including how gunfights started, “but if you ask what prompted the police or military to go into this operation based on their reports and collated dossier, you can’t have access to that. 

“But you will say, you will wonder why many of them are killed. It’s really because my police and my army are trained to kill,” Duterte said. “What else is the purpose of them being soldiers and police officers, among other duties?”

Police have said at least 6,600 suspected drug dealers and addicts have been killed in the five-year-old drug war while activists have said the count could be much higher.

In 2019, the United Nations human rights commissioner reported that more than 8,600 people had been killed in the Philippine drug war.

Killing captured on video

Initial investigations revealed that Zinampan, the police officer, allegedly fought with the victim’s son on May 1. After the shooting, Zinampan allegedly threatened the victim’s family, Eleazar said. 

The independent Commission on Human Rights (CHR) condemned the shooting and reminded Eleazar about his commitment to improve policing.

“After a string of recent deaths and killings being attributed to police officers, we urge the PNP [Philippine National Police] to translate commitments of internal cleansing into actual reduction of cases of human rights violations on the ground,” CHR spokeswoman Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement Tuesday. 

“This incident is gravely concerning as we expect our police to ‘serve and protect,’ and not be at the frontlines of violating rights, let alone arbitrarily curtailing one’s right to life,” de Guia said. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the police officer was a “bad egg” in an organization that has been working to clean its image. 

“But please, we have hundreds of thousands in our ranks of policemen and we hear one or two cases of this nature,” Roque said. 

The killing came about a week after four police in suburban Valenzuela City north of Manila were relieved of duty after being accused of killing an 18-year-old autistic man during a May 23 raid at a cockfighting event. 

Previously, three police were convicted of murdering Kian Lloyd delos Santos, a 17-year-old student who was killed during a drug raid in 2017.

The officers claimed delos Santos drew a gun at them and died in a shootout, but a closed-circuit television camera caught them leading the victim away. His corpse was discovered near a pigsty.

In December 2020, an off-duty police officer was filmed allegedly shooting and killing a woman and her son after an argument. The officer turned himself in and remains in custody.

Duterte, who was elected in 2016 for his tough-on-crime rhetoric, had vowed to clean the country of drugs and criminality. He has repeatedly exhorted police to kill rather than be killed themselves in carrying out the campaign.

Rights groups have said this policy led to wrongful deaths and two cases have been filed against Duterte at the International Criminal Court.

Jul 27, 2021 11:37 PM

Wala itong koneksyon sa administrasyon dahil ito ay isolated case at personal grudge ng suspect sa biktima. Kung makapagreport kayo exaggerated para kumita. O isa din kayong bayarang media ng komunistang CPP-NPA-NDF at tuta ni joma? Kayo ang tunay na problema ng bayan!

Anonymous says:
Jul 29, 2021 06:44 PM

Tell us about the human rights of the victim not the suspects. Mga ungas.

NeitherProOrAnti says:
Jul 31, 2021 09:19 PM

Pilit nyo pinapasok narrative nyo na extrajudicial killings eh murder malinaw ginawa nyan pulis na yan. Bayaran din kayo na pilit sinisira administrasyon

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