Thursday, June 20, 2019

Rash of killings in Cebu draws Senate’s attention

SENATORS belonging to the minority bloc have called for an immediate investigation on the spate of killings in Cebu under the “one-time, big-time” (OTBT) operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The lawmakers, in Senate Resolution 915, said they are gravely concerned about the recent wave of killings due to the involvement of some police officers who are reportedly pursuing the government’s all-out war on drugs.

The death toll in Cebu is mounting. At least 180 people have been killed in the last four months and 10 days.

The assailants have spared no one. Policemen, criminals, businessmen, village officials, a mayor and civilians have all been victims in the killing spree that has prompted Cebu City Councilor Pastor Alcover Jr. to call Cebu City a “criminal city.”

Of the 180 killed, some 105 were attacked by unidentified gunmen, most of them on board motorcycles, while 44 died in the hands of police and anti-narcotics operatives.

“The allegation that police officers themselves are behind some of the killings is highly disturbing,” the group said.

It added that police authorities can only use force in legitimate operations only when it is “strictly necessary, for lawful law enforcement purposes, proportional to lawful objectives, and damage and injury are to be minimized.” “As duty bearers, the PNP must observe proper operational procedures in order to fulfill the organization’s obligation with respect to human rights-based policing,” the group said.

Last July 18, the minority bloc members issued a joint statement expressing alarm over the brazenness of killings in the country, especially in Metro Cebu, where scores of suspected drug offenders were arrested and killed without due process.

According to Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, the number of killings started to rise after Cebu City Police Office Director Royina Garma and Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Debold Sinas assumed their posts.

Sinas, though, has repeatedly said he is willing to face an investigation.

In the three phases of the OTBT operations initiated by PRO 7, a total of 19 suspected drug personalities were killed. In its third phase of operations alone, at least 10 suspected drug offenders were slain and 76 were arrested.

Minority senators also noted that the OTBT anti-drug operations from July to October 2018 resulted in the death of suspected drug offenders on the pretext that they resisted police arrests.

“The recurring narrative of ‘nanlaban’--or suspects having resisted arrest--has been serving as a wrongful justification for fatalities during the conduct of police operations to curtail proliferation of illegal drugs,” the group said.

In October 2017, the Senate minority bloc, along with 10 other senators, filed Senate Resolution 516, urging the government to stop the “senseless” killings, especially of children, under the Duterte regime.

The said resolution was filed after the senseless killings of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos, 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman, and 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz under the hands of the police sparked public outcry.

Prior to that, 45 United Nations member states called on the Philippine government to conduct a “thorough” investigation on extrajudicial killings in the country as part of its recommendation to the Philippine delegation during the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2017.

Meanwhile, the call for a Senate probe on the killings in Cebu has drawn mixed reactions from Cebu City legislators.

While Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan Councilors (BOPK) Sisinio Andales and Eugenio Gabuya Jr. welcome the development, opposition Councilors Joel Garganera and Raymond Alvin Garcia believe that there might be a hidden agenda behind the measure.

“I welcome such move by the Senate in order to know whether Cebu is a safe place to live. To know what the government can do to prevent series of killings, the identity of the killers, the pattern of killings. Group of killers, local or outside ra?” Andales said.

Gabuya, for his part, said, “I hope the killings will stop because it gives a bad image to our city. I also pity the families, especially sa collateral victims.”

But for Garcia and Garganera, the move is the working of the Liberal Party (LP) to help Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who earlier admitted that the police was “part of the problem” of the peace and order situation.

“The Senate minority bloc connived with BOPK and Tommy to file the resolution to humiliate President (Rodrigo) Duterte ug ang mga pulis. That’s obvious. Mayor Osmeña is telling the opposition senators, labi na Liberal Party members, to file that reso to conduct an investigation. I am not surprised,” Garcia said.

“There were some LP senators, who were interviewed during the forum with Sinas. They’re trying to make it appear that Cebu City’s peace and order is really a problem. This is their way of helping Tommy,” Garganera said. (from the senate website, RTF, CTL)


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