After murder of Laguna teenager, PNP chief says police lapses are 'promptly addressed'
PNP headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City
PNP Public Information Office

After murder of Laguna teenager, PNP chief says police lapses are 'promptly addressed'

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - June 21, 2021 - 1:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — Amid probes into the killing of a Laguna teenager, Philippine National Police leadership said that operational lapses committed by policemen in anti-criminality operations are not ignored or disregarded by the organization but are promptly addressed.

Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief, made the assurance in a statement following the death of 16-year-old Johndy Maglinte in Laguna last week.

Maglinte and one Antonio Dalit were killed after police claimed they violently resisted arrest—an all too common theme in police narratives after killings. 

Eleazar was careful to point out that the latter is the drug suspect who was the subject of an arrest warrant at the time. 

The police chief in his statement claimed that whenever there are claims of irregularities in police operations, these are investigated so operational lapses could be corrected if proven to be true. 

“We don't take lightly allegations of lapses in police investigations. We investigate these right away so we can make in right in the event that lapses are seen so they don't happen again,” he said in Filipino. 

“We constantly review our protocols to check if these still fit the kind of setting we have today or if there are adjustments or changes that need to be made."

As it currently stands, the Internal Affairs Service, a fact-finding task group of the Police Regional Office 4-A, and the Commission on Human Rights are conducting independent investigations in the incident after the teenager’s family said that Maglinte and Dalit were murdered by cops.

RELATED: PNP failed to follow protocols in many drug operations, Guevarra tells UN rights body

What do the PNP's rules say?

  • Rules 7.4 and 7.5 of the PNP Operational Procedures hold that:

    "When suspect is violent or threatening, and that less physical measures have been tried and deemed inappropriate, a more extreme, but non-deadly measure can be used such as baton/truncheon, pepper spray, stun gun and other nonlethal weapon to bring the suspect under control, or effect an arrest.

    During confrontation with an armed offender, only such necessary and reasonable force should be applied as would be sufficient to overcome the resistance put up by the offender; subdue the clear and imminent danger posed by him; or to justify the force/act under the principles of selfdefense, defense of relative, or defense of stranger."
  • Rule 7.6 reads:
    "A police officer, however, is not required to afford offender/s attacking him the opportunity for a fair or equal struggle. The reasonableness of the force employed will depend upon the number of aggressors, nature and characteristic of the weapon used, physical condition, size and other circumstances to include the place and occasion of the assault. The police officer is given the sound discretion to consider these factors in employing reasonable force."
  • Rule 7.2 of the police manual also directs officers to "first issue a verbal warning" before resorting to force, but also says that failure to give a verbal warning is excusable "where threat to life or property is already imminent" and cops are given no choice. 

Eleazar: Important to get to the truth

This latest killing follows the murder of 52-year-old Lilybeth Valdez in Quezon City. Just the week before this, 18-year-old Edwin Arnigo, a man with special needs, died at the hands of a cop in Valenzuela City. 

The police chief pointed to what he said was the thousands of policemen were dismissed from the service and punished as part of the disciplinary measures on the part of those who committed grave abuses.

Per PNP data, a total of 18,664 were penalized for various offenses since 2016, 5,151 of whom were eventually dismissed from the service.

"In instances where there are allegations of irregularity in police operations, it is also important for us to get to the truth to enable us to improve and be better public servants. It also enables us to rid the PNP ranks of rogues who are unfit to wear the uniform,” Eleazar said.  

“The public can expect that the PNP will not tolerate any wrongdoings,” said Eleazar. “This is actually embodied on the Intensified Cleanliness Policy which I launched when I assumed the top PNP post.”

Former police leadership has historically defended police officers involved in viral or high-profile cases of abuse. 

Though he has been vocal about his internal cleansing program of the PNP, Eleazar himself has played down a number of concerns involving cops, saying only a few dirty cops are tarnishing the reputation of the national police. 

The police chief firmly rejects the notion from critics that a culture of violence and impunity is prevalent within the police organization. 

Selective accountability?

While the police take action in high-profile murder cases, it also defends what progressive groups say is a crackdown on left-leaning activists. 

Asked about officers intimidating and profiling community pantry organizers, the country's top cop said at a press briefing: "If the public will interpret everything as harassment, then we will always lose."

He also implied earlier that the targeting of activists and government critics in many police operations was a mere coincidence. 

“Every time we have police operations, especially the service of search or arrest warrants, the defense of individuals who just happen to be members of progressive groups that we have come to expect is the allegation that our operation is illegal or that they were harassed or planted evidence on," Eleazar said. 

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