Bato’s li­a­bil­ity on il­le­gal killings

Sun.Star Pampanga - - OPINOIOPNINION -

THE good­bye said by out­go­ing PNP chief Ron­ald “Bato” de la Rosa yes­ter­day (Mon­day, April 15) at the fla­grais­ing cer­e­mony at Camp Crame didn’t touch at all on his fail­ures and suc­cesses. Bato only asked the po­lice per­son­nel to judge whether he had been “a good or bad fa­ther” to the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

No talk about his re­spon­si­bil­ity as chief of the armed force that is be­ing blamed for the thou­sands of deaths in Pres­i­dent Duterte’s “war on drugs.” The In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) usu­ally goes af­ter the head of state sus­pected of mass killings or geno­cide. Dur­ing the past months, it’s Duterte who’s be­ing crit­i­cized by ICC and the na­tions sup­port­ing it. His chief of po­lice is not be­ing men­tioned.

One de­fense for the pres­i­dent though de­flects blame, sug­gest­ing that it is the po­lice to pros­e­cute as the “war” was waged by the po­lice. Duterte was not in­volved in any po­lice oper­a­tion. The ICC, that ar­gu­ment runs, should hound those who wield the gun and caused the vi­o­lence. And Bato was their chief.

With Bato leav­ing PNP, would his ac­count­abil­ity also go? That wasn’t raised in his farewell or in the news sto­ries about his exit.

Why the tears

But Bato cried, in some nos­tal­gia over the one year and nine months that he spent with PNP, when he was idol­ized by some, crit­i­cized by oth­ers, but be­came so widely known that he be­gan to think he could win as senat or.

Prone to easy tears, Bato also cried last Nov. 22, 2016, be­fore the Sen­ate com­mit­tee that looked into the drug cam­paign, say­ing then “Ako’y hi­rap na hi­rap na.”

“Gi­na­gawa ko ang la­hat,” he told PNP of­fi­cers and em­ploy­ees in Mon­day’s farewell. Did he try at all to limit the ca­su­al­ties to those who ac­tu­ally as­saulted the po­lice, which un­der the law would be self-de­fense? Or did he go along with the prod­ding to kill, kill, kill.

No writ­ten or­der

But then what else could Bato have said at the flag rites? He couldn’t say he was just fol­low­ing or­ders as ev­ery obe­di­ent PNP chief might plead. Even if he wanted to use that de­fense, he couldn’t show any or­der in writ­ing from his com­man­der: no ex­ec­u­tive or­der, is­suance, let­ter, guide­lines, noth­ing. A Philip­pine Cen­ter for In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ism (PCIJ) re­port in Septem­ber 2017 said it hadn’t found any writ­ten or­der.

Or­ders from above or none, in PNP of­fice, else­where in gov­ern­ment, or out of it, de la Rosa might still be held ac­count­able for il­le­gal killings com­mit­ted dur­ing his term as PNP chief.

Doc­u­mented killings

A Hu­man Rights Watch study of 24 in­ci­dents in­volv­ing po­lice op­er­a­tions be­tween Oc­to­ber 2016 and Jan­uary 2017, in which 32 peo­ple died, said po­lice “rou­tinely planted ev­i­dence, spent am­mu­ni­tion and pack­ets of drugs next to the bodies of the vic­tims.” In HRW’s 80-page spe­cial re­port of March 3, 2017, ti­tled “Li­cense to Kill: Philip­pine Po­lice Killings in Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’,” the po­lice are the faces of the per­pe­tra­tors. And their chief was de la Rosa.

A Reuters spe­cial re­port in April 2017 was fleshed out mainly by the in­for­ma­tion of two whistle­blow­ers: a for­mer PNP in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer and a com­man­der still in ac­tive duty. The data and de­tails were so ex­ten­sive that it couldn’t be dis­missed as sen­sa­tional fake news.

‘Su­pe­rior’

Could the ICC go af­ter Duterte alone when it was Bato who led the po­lice that is blamed for the killings?

Even un­der Philip­pine law, Repub­lic Act 9851 of 2008, “An Act Defin­ing and Pe­nal­iz­ing Crimes Against In­ter­na­tional Hu­man­i­tar­ian Law, Geno­cide and Other Crimes Against Hu­man­ity,” the “su­pe­rior” may be held li­able un­der the the­ory of “com­mand re­spon­si­bil­ity.” Who are the su­pe­ri­ors of the po­lice? The com­man­der-in-chief who’s also the head of state. And the chief of po­lice, namely Bato whose watch it was when the crimes were al­legedly com­mit­ted. To ICC and un­der R.A. #9851, the op­er­a­tive phrase is “com­mand r esp o n si b i l i t y.”

The ICC may use the Rome Statute and the coun­try’s own law, R.A. #9851 to go af­ter the su­pe­ri­ors of the po­lice. That is, if it could en­ter the coun­try and take them to court at the Hague. The ICC deputies might be the ones who land in jail.

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