Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the ruling proved that the justice system in the Philippines is working. He also said that the decision has refuted critics’ contention that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction over the Philippines because the country cannot prosecute criminals.
Miguel de Guzman
Duterte won’t pardon 3 convicted officers – Palace
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - November 30, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday described as a “triumph of justice” the guilty verdict on the Caloocan City policemen accused in the killing of 17-year-old Kian Lloyd delos Santos and assured the public that the convicted lawmen would not be pardoned.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the ruling proved that the justice system in the Philippines is working. He also said that the decision has refuted critics’ contention that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction over the Philippines because the country cannot prosecute criminals. 

“It is a triumph of justice. It shows that this country has a robust judicial system,” Panelo said at a press briefing.

“From day one, the Duterte administration has always anchored all executive actions on accountability. The President has never encouraged impunity. He has been equally harsh to wrongdoers in the government as he is to criminals,” he added. 

Panelo also lauded the Caloocan City regional trial court for the “swift administration of justice,” noting that it only took six months before a decision was issued.

He said President Duterte would not pardon the policemen, noting that the Chief Executive has promised not to condone any illegal act.

Duterte previously said he would not allow any soldier or policemen to go to jail for performing their duty but later clarified that his assurance does not cover those who committed unlawful acts. 

“You must remember that this is a murder. There is intention to kill. The President will never tolerate that. What he said was, ‘if you do it in accordance with your job, in the performance of your duty, then I will help you. Not when you violate the law.’ That is what he said,” Panelo said. 

“The President... will never tolerate policemen who intentionally kill, who had done it not in accordance with the performance of their duties. So obviously, if the conviction is murder, which is intentional, then I don’t think the President will pardon,” he added. 

Panelo noted Duterte ordered the immediate relief, arrest and detention of policemen involved in Delos Santos’ killing after the President had viewed the security video reinforcing claims that the teenager was executed. 

“We give the assurance that the President will never tolerate any intentional killing against civilians from the men in uniform,” Panelo said. 

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra lauded prosecutors for the conviction of the three Caloocan policemen.

Guevarra said the conviction of the three policemen proved the mechanism for accountability in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs is in place and effective.

He said the conviction rebutted the insinuation of impunity by critics of the war on drugs, who even used it as basis for filing a complaint against Duterte before the ICC.

Lawmakers also hailed the conviction, describing it as a “compelling verdict.”

“This (conviction) will show to the people that we are in full support of the drug war but it  should be done with due process of law and they should not abuse the law of the land,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

Sen. Grace Poe said the conviction is a compelling verdict, showing that justice is at hand, “not just for the young Kian delos Santos, but for the other dubious deaths linked to the drug war.”

“The case should be followed through until a just conclusion. Hopefully, this would create a momentum that could help stem the tide of unexplained killings in the country,” Poe added.

Who ordered?

Rights advocates agreed the decision was important, but noted that it only involved low-ranking policemen.

“Who gave the orders? Was this part of a policy? These questions remain unanswered,” rights lawyer Romel Bagares said.

Another human rights lawyer, Gil Aquino of the Center for International Law Manila (Centerlaw), said the conviction of the three policemen only serves as proof of the existence of summary killings in the country.

“It’s (the conviction) a welcome development, but we did not get everything we would have wanted,” he said.

Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch said the conviction of the three policemen serves as a warning.

“This is a warning to the Philippine National Police (PNP) that they better follow due process and respect the rights of suspects,” Conde said.

The death of Delos Santos, as well as of two other Manila teenagers accused of robbing a taxi driver, triggered rare street protests in 2017 and highlighted concerns about police abuse.

The first occasion was in January last year after narcotics police officers were arrested for the kidnapping and murder of a South Korean businessman in 2016.

The spate of killings involving policemen had prompted Duterte to suspend the notorious “Oplan Tokhang,” his flagship program against illegal drugs spearheaded by the PNP.

However, in both instances the PNP was reinstated in the war against drugs without major reforms.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said the conviction can serve as a “reminder” for their personnel to be diligent in their duties.

Albayalde said the PNP will not waiver in the campaign against illegal drugs despite the conviction of the three policemen. 

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Benigno Durana Jr. said the conviction would not affect the war against drugs.

Durana though conceded the conviction of the three policemen was a “setback” in the campaign.

Durana said the PNP is making adjustments in its strategy to fine-tune the campaign and make it “less bloody.” 

A common excuse

“Nanlaban,” the police jargon for someone resisting arrest, is a common excuse among policemen involved in anti-drug operations for killing a suspected drug offender.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairman Chito Gascon noted the case of Delos Santos was initially explained as a “nanlaban” incident. However, security video footage and eyewitness accounts showed the teenager was summarily executed.

“We hope that this conviction might encourage witnesses or whistle-blowers to come forward in other extrajudicial killings,” he said.

“As we saw in the Kian case, when there is unequivocal evidence to refute their claims, the public is prepared to express a righteous anger against an unlawful killing. The people expect law enforcement officials to be the first to comply with the law,” he added.

Vice President Leni Robredo said the “nanlaban” explanation for drug war deaths should not be readily accepted, stressing the need to investigate the incidents to protect the public from abuse.

“This should start a deeper investigation as it proves that there is a big problem that has to be addressed in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs,” Robredo said.

Robredo hailed the conviction “but we would like to reiterate our question: how many of the thousands who died in the ‘drug war’ are innocent like Kian?”

Sen. Joel Villanueva said the decision has done justice to the killers of Delos Santos.

“We hope that these perpetrators will face the full arm of the law. However, the issue on extrajudicial killings should not end with a single conviction,” he said. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Romina Cabrera, Edu Punay, Marc Jason Cayabyab, Janvic Mateo, Rhodina Villanueva, Rainier Allan Ronda, Mayen Jaymalin, Evelyn Macairan, AFP

 

KIAN LLOYD DELOS SANTOS
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