Seares: Bato defense on toddler’s death: ‘shit happens’ remark spoiled it

“You don’t want something like this to happen. But shit happens during operations. Shit happens.” -- Sen. Ronald de la Rosa, July 4, 2019

The child, Myka Ulpina, was shot in the neck during a police buy-bust operation against Myka’s father, a suspected drug pusher in Rodriguez, Rizal last June 29. The father was killed with another suspect and a police officer who posed as buyer of “shabu.” Myka, three, died the next day at the hospital. Police said the child was used by her dad as a shield.

Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, former chief of the national police, wanted to express sympathy for the child by prefacing that police did not want to harm innocent civilians, cops have kids too, they must make sure there would be no “collateral damage” but--there it was, he said it--“shit happens in an imperfect world, shit happens.”

He said the idiom twice at a media forum in the Senate last Thursday (July 4) and a few hours later, his statement was widely slammed as “uncaring and insensitive.”

Offensive idiom

A lot of the bad reaction was obviously fueled by his use of “shit happens,” which Merriam-Webster tags as informal and offensive.

People may not argue with Bato about the police not wanting to kill children: after all, they are not the suspected criminals and a child’s death usually whips up public anger; bad for an already tarnished police image.

But in saying “shit happens,” even without the offensiveness of the phrase, the police meant that the incident was inevitable and could not be prevented. Critics have argued that the campaign against illegal drugs can be waged without the “systematic killings.” And even with the mounting death toll, the problem has worsened and supply of drugs has soared instead.

Slogan from Gump

Bato didn’t have to use “when shit happens,” an expression that became popular because of that 1994 movie “Forrest Gump.”

In one scene, Gump (played by Tom Hanks) who was running across the country was asked by an old man (called Hippe in the script) if the runner could give him a slogan for his sticker-making business.

“Whoa, man,” the hippie said, “you just ran through a pile of dog shit.” Gump: “It happens.” Hippie: “What? Shit?” Gump: “Sometimes.” The hippie put together Gump’s sentences, “Sometimes, the shit happens,” and made money from the slogan.

Unavoidable damage

The flak that the Bato’s catchphrase brought on him more than displays absence of empathy for the child victim and her parents and kin. It tells the public that the police cannot avoid “collateral damage.” They cannot prevent the bad thing: sometimes, it happens.

But what if the bad thing goes on continually. The drug campaign appears to be heading to a state of no return— or is it there already? The public does not get the full information on people gunned down or felled by stray bullet. And mostly, authorities, and in turn the public, seem to lose interest when the killing is labeled as “drug-related” and “unavoidable.”

De la Rosa’s explanation for the death must have been well-intentioned. But the “shit” expletive evokes something rotten and foul in administering justice.

And the phrase is the kind that can be easily thrown back at Bato, as his fellow Sen. Risa Hontiveros did when she tweeted in reply: “Shit happens? Then it’s time to call a plumber and flush this bloody and abusive drug war down the toilet.”


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