Unending police misconduct
Can anything be worse than a cop accused of raping a 15-year-old girl in exchange for the freedom of her parents facing drug charges?
Yes — the horrific admission by that same cop, before his irate boss and the TV cameras, that what he did was nothing new, and in fact was standard operating procedure among police operatives going after alleged drug pushers who are married.
That was the scenario that shook the public last week, when Sampaloc police officer Eduardo Valencia was slapped with grave misconduct for the rape of a minor whose parents were in detention for drug charges.
As if that wasn’t revolting enough, Valencia would then reveal, in a moment of panic during a public confrontation with National Capital Region Police Office Director Guillermo Eleazar, that “palit-puri” — the crassly described exchange of sexual favors from a suspect or a relative for the dropping of drug charges — was par for the course among the police.
Expectedly, Eleazar vehemently denied the revelation, and vowed that Valencia’s reprehensible action would not be tolerated.
But, according to data by independent observers, this one cop’s bloodcurdling crime, if true, would appear to be merely of a piece with a larger pattern of rampant abuse and impunity in the police ranks, as the institution has been lavished with near-unconstrained authority to implement the Duterte administration’s drug war.
The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), which has been monitoring state-perpetrated violence against women, says cases of sexual abuse against Filipino women continue to rise.
More alarmingly, 56 cops have been tagged as perpetrators in 33 cases documented from July 2016 to October 2018. Of these 33 cases, 13 involved victims who were 17 years old and below.
CWR executive director Mary Joan “Jojo” Guan noted that more than half of these documented cases were related to President Duterte’s war on drugs.
Either the abuse was committed during a drug operation or the victim was a female drug suspect.
The “high number” of abuse cases “only reflects how abusive the authorities have become under a regime that sends a signal of impunity to its armed forces and blatantly disregards women’s human rights,” said Guan.
The war on drugs, she added, “becomes an excuse for sexual abuse.”
Valencia’s case is but the latest addition to the lengthening string of disturbing incidents involving policemen acting without regard to due process or basic institutional protocols in waging the drug offensive — from the documented “nanlaban” incidents, to the cold-blooded killings of already-detained drug suspects such as former Albuera, Leyte, mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. and even completely innocent victims such as Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo and teenagers Kian delos Santos and Carl Arnaiz, to the recent case of the daughter of alleged “drug queen” Yu Yuk Lai being released from jail due to the police’s shoddy handling of evidence.
The mindset seems to be that everything is justified in the name of this unappeasable campaign.
Or, as Valencia tried to defend himself in that now-viral clip of him being berated by Eleazar, “Mabait akong pulis (I am a good cop). Operative po ako, sir, marami na po akong napahuli na drug pusher (I’m an operative. I’ve apprehended many drug pushers)” — as if that would absolve him of the rape-extortion he is accused of inflicting on a minor desperate to free her parents from detention.
Valencia, it bears pointing out, joined the Philippine National Police only in 2014; four short years in the force, and look what its warped culture appears to have ingrained in foot soldiers like Valencia.
Lamentably, President Duterte himself has constantly assured the police and the military that he has their back no matter what, thus empowering these very agents of the law to feel they are above it.
Mr. Duterte has repeatedly expressed his contempt for human rights and due process in the execution of his drug war, and just very recently declared that dead drug suspects are nothing more than “carcasses” to him.
The police, it seems, are listening closely, and taking everything to heart.
The country’s dead, in the end, may not only include the thousands who have fallen to this brutal and bloody campaign, but also the institution sworn to serve and protect the people, as it rots unchecked from within.