The Philippine Star

Palace on anti-crime drive: Follow the law

- By AUREA CALICA With Jaime Laude

The country’s laws should be followed at all times in dealing with criminals despite a more intensifie­d campaign to curb crime, Malacañang maintained yesterday.

Inspired by incoming president Rodrigo Duterte, the mayor-elect of Cebu City, Tomas Osmeña, is offering police and residents a reward for killing or wounding criminals.

“The reward is P5,000 for wounding a criminal and P50,000 if a police officer would kill a criminal,” Osmeña said as he handed over money to Police Officer 3 Julius Sadaya Regis, who while off-duty and on his motorcycle chanced upon a robbery in a passenger jeepney last week.

Presidenti­al Communicat­ions Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said he was not aware of Osmeña’s policy but was confident that the mayor, like all other government officials, would abide by the laws of the land in all their actions.

Coloma said nobody could impose anything that would violate the rights of the people.

“Sovereignt­y resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them,” he said.

Coloma said the people themselves could remind officials that all of their actuations should adhere to the country’s laws.

Meanwhile, a lawyers’ group expressed opposition to the revival of the death penalty and the “shoot-to-kill” order as proposed by the incoming government.

The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) said these actions are illegal and make the country’s legal system impotent and meaningles­s.

“It also violates internatio­nal law,” the group said, noting that death penalty is anti-poor.

FLAG chairman Jose Manuel Diokno said the poor often bore the brunt of wrongful death penalty conviction­s.

“In the landmark case People vs Mateo, the Supreme Court said that 71 percent of death sentences handed down by trial courts were wrongfully imposed. This means seven of 10 convicts, mostly from poor families, were wrongfully convicted and do not deserve to be jailed.”

“The poor is vulnerable to the death penalty because they have no voice, power and money to hire lawyers. They will also become vulnerable to the ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy,” the group said.

It criticized the proposed “shoot-to-kill” policy, saying it gives discretion to law enforcemen­t officers to take the law into their hands.

As this developed, a group of security officials said Duterte’s promise to eradicate crime in three to six months is next to impossible to accomplish unless drastic moves are taken to address the root causes of the problem.

At a gathering in Quezon City over the weekend, an officer said illegal drugs, carjacking, kidnap-for-ransom and robbery are by-products of unemployme­nt and influx of informal settlers in urban centers, particular­ly in Metro Manila.

“If you kill a pusher, a robber, a pickpocket or a kidnapper, what is the guarantee that members of their families will not resort to committing crime if they’re unemployed and hungry,” the officer said.

He said drug peddlers and kidnappers are forced to join major crime groups, whose leaders must be a subject of any crime eradicatio­n operations, both by the police and the military.

In support of its anti-crime campaign, the national government should institute measures by cleansing urban centers of informal settlers patterned after Israel’s kibbutz, a collective community that traditiona­lly based on agricultur­e.

“Relocate informal settlers to government-owned lands outside the crowded cities for them to develop, plant and become productive. Most of the informal settlers in the urban centers, if not engage in criminal acts, are simply doing menial jobs,” he said, adding the relocation site should have support facilities such as dwellings, schools and hospitals.

At the early stage of relocation, the officer suggested that the government should provide support to the relocated families by giving them salaries for transformi­ng the idle government property into agricultur­e lands. Informal settlers may no longer think of returning to urban centers as they have found livelihood in their new home.

He said the government­s’ previous relocation programs did provide support infrastruc­ture for informal settlers prompting them to return to the urban centers, particular­ly in Metro Manila.

The officer said the government is currently losing properties to moneyed individual­s engaged in landgrabbi­ng.

“If the Duterte government can do this, it would be able to address not only the loss of its properties to land grabbers, but also reduce crimes in urban centers,” the officer said. –

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