MANILA, Philippines — As part of its crackdown on rogue cops, the national police said it would examine cases of ‘nanlaban’, or where police claim suspects fought back violently, more closely.
To recall, the Department of Justice in February told members of the UN Human Rights Council that police failed to follow protocols in many anti-drug operations, according to initial findings of a review led by his department.
Irregularities during drug operations
Official police figures show that almost 8,000 have died in official police operations, though rights groups both here and abroad say that the real number may be closer to 30,000.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said that there was “damning” evidence of PNP personnel planting evidence to justify arrests and killings. Earlier findings by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have also cast doubt on the self-defense narrative by police, saying that some victims in official operations could have been unarmed when they were killed.
Asked about these cases, many of which occurred during drug operations, the country’s top cop said that the newfound push for body cameras in the police force would be a solution.
“This should address the public’s fears because we have evidence and it becomes your words against mine,” Eleazar said.
Eleazar admitted that the PNP was still awaiting guidelines on the use of body cameras but maintained he was confident they would be in circulation by the end of his term.
“The internal cleansing should be continuous. And P/Lt. Gen. Eleazar is right: it is good to start at the recruitment stage, to get rid of corruption and the ‘palakasan’ system,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson, himself a former police chief, said in an interview on DWIZ radio.
“He is starting off on the right foot. Before you can go after criminals, you have to make sure the ones running after the criminals aren’t criminals themselves,” he added.
The PNP has long been criticized for what rights groups say is its culture of violence and impunity that allows cops to get away with cases of abuse. Police leadership continues to assert that these are isolated incidents, despite the countless killings in 2021 alone.
Eleazar pointed to the case of former cop Jonel Nuezca, who shot a mother and her son in Tarlac over a parking dispute. The general pointed out that the police investigation took around 30 days before completion.
“Was it just because the media was watching that this happened? We should do that for all cases. This is not a perfect system, but we learn from the input…I give my full support to our internal affairs service,” he said.
He said that the PNP’s internal disciplinary mechanisms were already in place to deal with what he said was “a few rotten cops” that tarred the agency’s reputation.
“All of us are affected by this, especially the PNP organization because of these few rotten eggs…The Internal Affairs Service will play a big role when it comes to punitive and formative measures,” the newly-minted police chief said.
“We want effective supervision from all levels of the command…Cops should think twice before doing any nonsense if they know they won’t be defended by their peers.”
— with a report from Bella Perez-Rubio
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