Enough Echoing the PNP’s Press Releases
With so many questions left unanswered about the number of killings in the course of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, some etched in the public mind for their horror and violence, the media should be hounding the police for the facts about these cases and those that the Philippine National Police (PNP) has classified as deaths under investigation or DUIs.
Without clear answers from the PNP or any other government investigative agency, the media should stop reporting the PNP’s information that serve as mere press releases.
What good is it for the public to know the PNP’s progress report if it does nothing more than give mere numbers as proof of their work. In the past 17 months of the president’s drug war, the police now claim that they have initiated investigations and dismissed erring policemen. But without actual findings, this is no longer news. If erring policemen have been dismissed, then there should be more information about cases being filed against them.
On November 27, ABS-CBN 2’s Bandila aired a report that presented the progress of the Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS). Interviewing Atty. Alfegar Triambulo, PNP-IAS Inspector General, Bandila reported that from July 2016 to November 2017, the PNP-IAS investigated 2,658 police officers, including those involved in the death of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. Of this number, 1,489 cases were dropped, 18 are in pre-charge investigations, and 144 are in summary hearings. Meanwhile, 81 erring cops have been dismissed, 20 demoted, and 31 suspended. (“PNP-IAS, Iginiit na iniimbestigahan nila ang mga pulis na sangkot sa mga insidenteng may mga napatay sa kampanya vs droga”)
A previous story by Bandila reported the PNP-IAS’ recommendation to PNP Director General Ronald Dela Rosa to dismiss 58 erring police officers. The report also reviewed the violations committed by the said cops including forcibly entering and robbing a house and kidnapping and robbery-extortion. (“58 pulis ipinasisibak ng PNP-IAS dahil sa katiwalian”)
Critical details needed
CMFR could not find any other media reports dutifully reporting the PNP’s progress report.
Rappler picked up some numbers from the testimony of Triambulo when he testified before the Supreme Court which was hearing oral arguments on the drug war – arguing against the charge that the PNP has not been doing enough about these cases. “PNP says 125 cops punished for drug war-related offenses” pointed out that the PNP-IAS only takes up administrative cases, although its findings can be used in the cases filed by either the NBI or the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
There is little to be gained from such a list of numbers. The public needs to know the truth about the cases which the PNP classified as DUIs, to say clearly whether the police were found to have abused their power (based on PNP’s statistics on the number of deaths during the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Campaign, the “homicide cases under investigation” from July 2016 to September 2017 were 2,290). The PNP should provide assurance that it is really working to establish the facts in those cases when police claimed they had to shoot because suspects fought back (nanlaban). Self-defense, after all, is not a bar from criminal prosecution; it is a legal defense, and must still be proven. Have any cases been filed? Seventeen months of the drug war, the public deserves to know the truth.
Otherwise, the list merely serves as a kind of whitewash of the cases in which police have been implicated in the killing of citizens, some of whom were probably innocent, all of whom deserved due process.
There is so much more that media should be doing, such as reporting on trials of arrested and detained police, if any; or those who have been released on bail and why. Apart from providing statistics provided by the police, journalists should be reporting on the trial process, recording the irregularities that may be shielding the police and indeed protecting them from punishment—just as the president had promised. Clearly, the media should be reporting on how the trials are proceeding.
Media should track the details in the alleged violations of the police during their operations to confirm the pattern of the killings, to answer the questions about how and why so many have been killed. Otherwise, the questions about the number of deaths and the ruthless resort to violence in the course of the war on drugs can be so easily papered over by so called progress reports. The media and the public have short memories. But this would make media complicit in the cover up of the police’s criminal abuse of power.
Media’s concentrated effort to follow through the investigation of alleged wrongdoing by the police is essential if we are to hold the police accountable and ensure that, no matter what President Duterte has promised, no one should be above the law.