Seares: That shoot-the-mayor-on sight order

IT wasn't actually how it looked.

Last Aug. 1, President Duterte warned that if Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. and his son Kerwin, "drug dealers" in that Leyte town, wouldn't surrender in 24 hours, "an order of 'shoot-on-sight' would be given if they resisted and endangered the lives of arresting police officers."

Police don't issue shoot-to-kill orders, much more shoot-on-sight ones, unless the fugitive is armed and dangerous and has already killed people. Even then, under PNP Manual of Operations, there has to be unlawful aggression before the suspect can be shot.

And note the qualifier: the suspect must resist and endanger the lives of police. That condition in effect negates the shoot-on-sight order. The mayor and his son couldn't be promptly shot; police would still have to see unlawful aggression.

Media, however, didn't put the condition in the headline. It was buried; in the second-day story; it was sixth from the last paragraph in one broadsheet. In online sites, headlines played up "shoot to kill" or "shoot on sight."

No wonder Espinosa surrendered. He was frightened by publicity about the order. Espinosa the son was not. He must think the police wouldn't do it. Not when they made a lot of noise over the warning. He must have taken one alleged drug lord's example: threatened to be finished off, yet hasn't been placed "behind bars or under the ground."

Bodies pile up

One may suspect it's more bark than bite. But the bodies keep piling up. In their town, six alleged Espinosa gunmen were slain by police in a claimed shootout.

Still, most victims have not been mayors, rich businessmen or police generals. Not drug lords who, Duterte said in his Sona, are not in the country.

The sideshows confirm many people's suspicion: PNP may have revised its books on how to handle suspects.

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