Police brutality, by any other name…
Recent atrocious acts committed by members of the Philippine National Police nationwide have made us wonder what happened to the much publicized numerous police reforms that were supposed to operationalize the PNP’s slogan: To Serve and Protect.
We also ask: If they are protectors, why have they become the very source of insecurity among ordinary citizens? If they are there to “serve,” why aren’t they helping people who are quite distressed at this time of the pandemic? Or why are they not serving food to people who could hardly eat three meals a day?
When people in the communities extend their helping hand in putting up a community pantry, why are police officers suspicious of these initiatives, labeling them with certain political colors? Don’t our police officers and other government functionaries know that kindness knows no political color?
More than four years ago, 16 million voters made possible the presidency of former Davao City mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Mr. Duterte has often goaded the PNP into becoming a killing machine, making them target women, especially from the New People’s Army. In his frequent rambling pronouncements, he would refer to the PNP and the military as “my police force,” “my soldiers,” with his favorite punch line, “you can kill them”—referring to drug pushers and others. “Ako ang bahala sa inyo (I will be responsible for you).”
The 2021 Human Rights Watch reported that “…the police and unidentified gunmen linked to the police have committed thousands of extrajudicial executions. The killings increased dramatically during the COVID-19 lockdown, rising by over 50 percent during April to July 2020 compared to the previous four months. There has been almost total impunity for these killings.”
Extrajudicial killings rank first among the bloodiest forms of police brutality, and of human rights violations. According to various sources, government agents have killed 5,903 individuals during anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2020. Other sources, such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, put the death toll at 8,663, although domestic human rights groups, including the Commission on Human Rights, believe the real figure could be triple the number reported in the OHCHR report. But other credible sources of information, like Rappler, peg the number of EJK killings as over 20,000.
However, when cases of police brutality and the PNP’s violations of human rights are brought up, government seems to be quite lukewarm to the issue, let alone investigate the cause of the issue. When international groups call for a thorough investigation of these cases, the President usually calls them out, with a threat that he won’t be cooperating with these international donors that take part in the campaign to push for holding accountable those who have perpetrated massive human rights violations.
These are eerie reminders of a former dark period in our history that all of us would not like to go through again—martial law.
The report also underscored that the ones severely affected by drug war violence are children who are left orphans by victims. They suffer from a range of psychological conditions, being in severe psychological distress. They also have had their share of being bullied incessantly by their classmates. These children bear this trauma until they become adults, holding this pain in their subconscious. They also tend to have nightmares every now and then.
Called “retaliation” against suspects who the police claim to be “nanlaban” (fought back), or as consequences of “legitimate police operations,” all these are cases of police brutality. However these actions are called by the police, and with whatever justification, all these are atrocious acts that still reek of the same stench of massive human rights transgressions that only bring misery to those who survive, and to the family members of the victims.
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