PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) chief, General Gullermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar has assured critics of the government here and abroad that the wheels of justice in the country are in full motion with local remedies working when it comes to investigating alleged abuses committed by law enforcement agents tasked to wage an unrelenting war on drugs since 2016.
The PNP chief issued the statement amid reports that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) had expressed hope that domestic remedies work before the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates accusations of crimes against humanity in the enforcement of the government’s war on drugs.
“When it comes to domestic remedies, may mga ahensya po tayo na kasalukuyan nang tumitingin sa mga alegasyon ng human rights violations sa bansa. One of these remedies is the partnership of the PNP and the Department of Justice(DOJ) in reviewing cases involving policemen found to have committed lapses on the Police Operating Procedure in the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations,” Gen. Eleazar explained.
According to the PNP chief, “our giving access to these documents to the DOJ for review, is our openness to holding PNP personnel accountable for their crimes should there be a finding of criminal liability by the agency.”
“We have nothing to hide and we have committed to make available to the DOJ any other document that may be asked of us in the course of the department’s review,” Gen. Eleazar assured.
Recently, the PNP gave the DOJ access to 53 case records from the PNP-IAS for its review.
Gen. Eleazar pointed out that the justice system in the Philippines may not be perfect but it is working.
“We in the PNP firmly believe that the wheels of justice in the country are in motion. Marami na po tayong pulis na napanagot dahil sa paglabag sa batas at pagabuso sa kapangyarihan. Bawat alegasyon din po sa ating mga kapulisan ay agad nating sinisilip at iniimbestigahan dahil hindi natin kinukunsinti ang mga tiwali at abusado sa hanay ng PNP,” he said.
The top cop issued those statements as the Palace said that President Rodrigo will never cooperate with any investigation that may be launched by the ICC regarding the alleged ‘extra-judicial killings’ committed by the police force as a result of the government’s war on drugs since 2016.
“Hinding-hindi tayo magko-cooperate dahil hindi na tayo miyembro ng ICC. Hinding-hindi magko-cooperate ang Presidente hanggang matapos ng kanyang termino sa June 30, 2022,” an emotionally-charged presidential spokesperson, Secretary Harry Sec. Roque told newsmen in Camp Crame.
The Palace official also told the Journal Group that the ‘timing of the release’ of the statement of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is ‘highly suspect’ since it comes in the wake of the pronouncement by known Duterte critic, former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV that he will seek the presidency in 2022.
Describing the ICC prosecutor’s statement as ‘legally erroneous and politically motivated,’ Sec. Roque pounced on the fact that the ICC prosecutor has no jurisdiction over the government.
The official expressed disbelief over the accusation that President Duterte has committed a crime against humanity as a result of his war on drugs.
“I will ask the PNP when you discharge your obligation under the so-called drug on war, did you target civilians? Did you kill civilians because they are civilians? Obviously you did not,” he said.
Roque said that policemen also had the full right to defend themselves and use reasonable force however when they are confronted with armed and dangerous criminals.
PNP CHIEF REACTS
Gen. Eleazar defended the President and the police force from the ICC accusations.
“Walang katotohanan yan. Malinaw ang sinasabi ng Pangulo, laging sinasabi na gawin ang tama pero proteksiyunan natin ang sarili. Do what is right and what is legal. Mahal niya ang kapulisan at kasundaluhan pero pag umabuso, ang sabi niya ay kasuhan,” Gen. Eleazar said.
The top cop said that the PNP is willing to furnish the DOJ all the documents it needs in the investigation of the so-called ‘EJKs.’ “In fact with the guidance of SILG, I talked with the Secretary of Justice,me mga cases na 53 with known lapses, binigay namin pero yung other unresolved cases ay due to appeals. Wala kaming tinatago at ipapakita namin sa DOJ all these documents. Pati yung naimbestigahan ng IAS, all cases which led to the death of suspects and even policemen can be reviewed,” Gen. Eleazar said.
PNP NOT WEAPONIZING LAW, ELEAZAR ASSURES CHR
Gen. Eleazar also assured the CHR they are not into the practice of weaponizing the law as they have been sworn to always uphold their duty to serve and protect the people.
“I would like to assure the CHR that the men and women of the police organization do not weaponize the law. It is not the PNP’s way to use the law to attack any citizen whom we are sworn to protect and serve. Our role is only to enforce what the law provides,” the top cop said.
“Bawat kilos ng ating kapulisan ay dapat na naaayon sa batas dahil mawawalang saysay ang aming pagiging law enforcers kung kami mismo ay hindi sumusunod sa batas. Sinisiguro ko sa CHR na patuloy na gagampanan ng PNP ang mandato nito,” he added.
The PNP chief issued the statement in the wake of the CHR’s move to call for an investigation into the arrest of Anakbayan Naga City chairperson Sasah Sta. Rosa early this month for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
After the accused was charged with violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulations Act of 2013 and RA 9516 or illegal possession of explosives, the CHR sought a probe into what it claimed was the weaponization of the law against State dissenters.
“Tuwing may police operations, partikular ang service ng search o arrest warrants, laban sa mga indibidwal na nagkakataon ay miyembro pala ng mga progresibong grupo halos inaasahan na namin ang laging kasunod na alegasyon na iligal ang aming operasyon o sila’y hinarass o tinaniman ng ebidensya. The PNP maintains that our men follow the police operating procedure in serving search or arrest warrants,” Gen. Eleazar said.
According to Gen. Eleazar, “we have, in law, what we call the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties to enable us to effectively dispense our functions. This can only be overturned by clear and convincing proof to the contrary dahil kung hindi eh sigurado akong binaha na tayo noon pa ng samu’t-saring nuisance cases mula sa mga akusadong gusto lang makalusot sa kanilang krimen.”
“But if there are claims of police irregularity and they feel they have evidence to support that allegation, it is well within their rights to file a complaint. We are open to any investigation and whatever the outcome, we will accept and abide,” he added.
Gen. Eleazar said that he is looking forward to the finalization of protocols by the Supreme Court on the use of body-worn cameras in police operations, particularly in the service of arrest or search warrants.
“Malaking bagay ito para mapawi ang duda sa mga lehitimong operasyon. Magsisilbi din itong proteksyon ng ating mga mamamayan mula sa ilang tiwali sa aming hanay,” he stressed.