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Two witnesses testify on extrajudicial killings

Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights chair Leila de Lima (top left) fields questions to security and human rights officials present during the Senate inquiry on the recent rise in extrajudicial killings and summary killings involving suspected criminals on Monday, August 22, 2016. Senate PRIB / Cesar Tomambo

MANILA, Philippines (Philippines News Agency) – Two relatives of suspected drug pushers who were killed in police operations appeared at the Senate Monday to testify during the inquiry into extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration’s war on illicit drugs.

After law enforcers delivered their introductions, the witnesses, who were wearing hoodies, scarves and sunglasses to protect their identities, recounted how Philippine National Police officers “abused” their relatives even though they were only accused of being involved in the illegal drug trade.

The first witness, Harra Bertes introduced as “Harra Kazuo”, 26, was the pregnant wife of suspected drug dealer JP Bertes, and daughter-in-law of Renato Bertes.

JP and Renato Bertes were killed by Pasay City cops last July 7.

Harra Bertes admitted that her husband used to sell shabu in 2015 and that cops demanded some P10,000 in exchange for their silence. She said JP was already trying to quit drug dealing and was planning to surrender to the authorities when he was killed.

She recalled how three Pasay police officers, who she did not name, raided their house, demanded the surrender of drugs she said she did not have at that time, and stripped their two-year-old daughter naked thinking that she hid the drugs in the child’s underwear.

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Harra further said that her husband was beaten up, while she herself was shoved around by the cops despite being pregnant. She however said she did not see her husband and father-in-law when they were arrested and just learned of their death later.

Superintendent Nolasco Bathan of the Pasay police said the two were killed because they tried to grab a cop’s gun when they were about to be detained.

The second witness was 23-year-old Mary Rose Aquino, the eldest daughter of suspected drug dealers Rodelio and Rosalie Campos. Like Bertes, she also admitted that her parents used and sold drugs, which they sourced from Antipolo police officers. The drugs came from police operations, she said.

Aquino said her parents were going to remit some P50,000 in drug money to cops before they were killed.

In a chance interview, PNP Dir. Gen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, said that the Antipolo cops mentioned in the hearing will be relieved and placed in their holding unit while under investigation.

“If it is proven that all the police in Antipolo are involved in drugs, I’ll sack them all.  Even the commander,” he said in Filipino.

Dela Rosa also said that he was grateful to the witnesses for the revelation.

“I’m thankful to the second witness because we discovered that there are police officers not yet in our list of scalawags. It is a new discovery,” he said.

The PNP chief also said that while some police officers are bound to suffer from low morale during the Senate inquiry, he will motivate them to continue doing their jobs.

“If you are a police with low morale, anti-drug operations may slow down but if you are a police who is committed, the more you will work hard. It’s my job to motivate them to continue doing their job,” he added.

The Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings was presided by Senator Leila de Lima, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights and Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.

Present during the hearing were law enforcement officials from the PNP, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and the National Bureau of Investigation.

Also present were resource persons from the Department of Interior and Local Government and Commission on Human Rights.

CHR said the police officers violated the right against arbitrary deprivation of life and committed torture. It furthered that the torture was confirmed by the forensics’ autopsy report.

“The report said there was a human rights violation… the right to life. The situations surrounding the killings showed  aside from the arbitrary deprivation of life there was torture committed by the police,” CHR said when asked by De Lima. –PNA/Azer Parrocha with a report from Philstar.com/Rosette Adel

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