WHILE a top police official warned persons who support the campaign against illegal drugs not to take the law into their own hands, two men with alleged links to narcotics were shot dead in Lapu-Lapu City.
“Bawal sa batas ang vigilantism. That is against the law and we will not allow that to happen here. Yung pulis lang ay may karapatan na mag-implement ng mga batas (Only the police should implement the law),” said Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 director.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 7 said it had started to investigate a series of executions before their central office ordered an inquiry almost two weeks ago.
The CHR 7 received a memo last July 15 from their central office in Manila, directing them to compile reports and investigate the attacks, most of which were against alleged participants in the illegal drug trade.
Cebu City Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella said he supports the inquiry.
“That’s good. Here, you can apply the principle of check and balance to the police or any official, for that matter, with respect to the violation of human rights. CHR considers not just the rights of the victim, but also the (rights) of the offender. It goes both ways,” Labella told reporters.
The investigation, he said, will prevent abuse of power and authority by public officials.
Although public officials have a duty to implement a law, Labella added that a balancing act must be done by CHR to see to it that the law enforcers and other authorities do not go overboard.
“We started investigating way back, with the first incident in which Mayor (Tomas) Osmeña gave his first cash reward. We’re still continuing our compilation and there are those who filed personally in our office,” CHR 7 chief investigator Leo Villarino told Sun.Star Cebu.
Before his term began last June 30, Mayor Osmeña rewarded PO3 Julius Regis with P20,000, for shooting at and wounding two robbers who preyed on passengers of a public jeepney last May 17.
Regis was the first recipient of the cash rewards promised by Osmeña to police officers who will kill a drug lord, robber, or any criminal.
However, the cash rewards have stopped since the mayor announced that he will end his anti-drug campaign to focus on the city’s other problems.
Also yesterday, the CHR’s Villarino expressed support for US State Secretary John Kerry’s stressing the importance of human rights.
“Civil and human rights need to be protected even as we work to keep our society safe,” Kerry said in an ABS-CBN report on his joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay.
Villarino said that a society will only grow if the government lives up to its duty of protecting the rights of citizens.
“The criminal, once detained, is stripped of all privileges. The only thing he’s holding onto is the guarantee of the Constitution that he will be given due process. I hope the government will strengthen their efforts in protecting the community,” he said.
Even as these reminders were aired, two men died and one suffered injuries after being shot in Barangays Pajo and Basak in Lapu-Lapu City.
They were identified as Jerome Daitol, 29, a jobless married man, and Antolin Amistoso, 40, single and a caretaker of an Internet café and a resident of Barangay Basak, Lapu-Lapu City.
Juljin Muana, 18, who is a single, jobless resident of Barangay Pajo, Lapu-Lapu City, was still being treated in a hospital last night.
The victims were believed to have been involved in illegal drugs.
According to the initial investigation, Daitol was on his motorcycle and heading toward the main road. Before he reached it, however, some unidentified men shot and hit him twice. He didn’t make it to the Lapu-Lapu City District Hospital alive.
Daitol was reportedly on the anti-illegal drug watch list of Police Station 3.
On the other hand, Amistoso was sleeping inside an internet café when an unidentified man wearing a helmet barged in and shot him repeatedly.
Before the attack, Amistoso had been advised by his aunt Paz Luntok to surrender to the police but he allegedly ignored her advice.
Police found in the scene eight fired cartridges, among others.
Muana was sitting on a concrete pavement near a gas station when one unidentified man approached on a motorbike, got down and fired at Muana several times. The victim managed to run and ask for help, and was being treated in a public hospital last night.
The initial police investigation revealed that Muana had been suspected of being involved in illegal drugs.
SPO2 Allan Pantaleon said that the reported incidents were all believed to be tied to illegal drugs.
Senior Insp. Zenaido Pastorfide said the Lapu-Lapu Police Office is investigating further and checking their victims’ backgrounds.
For his part, Taliño said he has received a text message from a person who offered to form a group to kill a drug pusher, but the official told the latter not to do it.
“Nag-text sa akin ulit. This time, the person gave some information. Hindi sila nag-insist na sila ang bibira na sa drug pushers (They no longer insisted on going after the drug pushers themselves),” he said.
He added the information he got was relayed to a police station chief, who is now tasked to go after the dealer.
Cebu City was plagued by the summary executions of suspected criminals or newly released detainees starting in 2004, but these waned in 2007.
Last July 18, suspected drug pusher Maurino Basierto Jaime was shot and killed by unidentified assailants. Placed near his body was a sheet of paper with this message, “Pusher ako wag niyo akung tularan (I’m a pusher. Don’t do what I did).”
Taliño also said the police are willing to face the CHR.
“Puro legitimate operations tong mga to (These were all legitimate operations),” he said. “Nagkataon na itong drug pushers ay lumalaban (These drug pushers are fighting back).”
The Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee convened yesterday for the first time in six years to discuss how the different government agencies can implement a holistic approach in stopping illegal drugs and other crimes.
They plan to meet every month.
In the past 27 days, the police killed 35 suspected drug pushers in anti-narcotics operations.
The PRO 7, in the same period, documented 35,324 drug personalities, while over 12,000 were believed to have been undocumented.
Over 25,000 houses
Only 4 of the 4,229 drug pushers surrendered with illegal drugs.
From July 1 until July 25, the police visited 25,429 houses in Central Visayas.
Taliño said their anti-drug operations include the monitoring of possible shabu laboratories in Cebu and other provinces in Central Visayas.
“Wala pang na uncover na drug laboratory sa (We haven’t uncovered any drug laboratory in) Region 7,” he said.
If some of the operatives will face charges, Taliño said they will tap their legal service and ask for help from a group of lawyers who volunteered to help the officers.
The police official added that the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority may train some of those who surrendered, so they can support themselves by legal means.
He also will meet with a spiritual leader who is willing to start a moral recovery program for those who owned up to being drug users or peddlers. Dan Henly Cuizon, USJ-R intern