EDITORIAL - Neutralized

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

Rodrigo Duterte has not yet assumed the presidency so the order can’t be coming from him. And President Aquino, the only son of two democracy icons, can’t possibly be sanctioning state-sponsored executions of crime suspects.

So public speculation is focusing on certain police officials wanting to get on the good side of the incoming president by killing drug suspects in incidents that are described as armed encounters. As of last Sunday, the body count nationwide within just one week stood at 14.

The fatalities include four who were gunned down in a raid on a house in Bulacan where police reported confiscating 20 grams of shabu with a street value of P40,000 as well as guns and ammunition. That’s not a lot of shabu for drug trafficking. Anti-narcotics agents say notorious drug convicts at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa are believed to be running multimillion-peso trafficking operations in Metro Manila and other parts of the country, and the drug dealers even enjoy VIP treatment behind bars.

Yesterday, a man was found dead in Quezon City with a note left on his body declaring that he was a drug pusher, pimp and robber. This is reminiscent of the days in Manila when cops were suspected of “salvaging” or executing crime suspects and leaving the bodies with cardboard signs declaring they were robbers who should not be emulated. The executions did not make the city any safer.

Public concerns about criminality helped propel Duterte to the presidency, and there will probably be little outcry over the recent spike in so-called armed encounters in which suspects – mostly the impoverished –  end up dead.

Perhaps some of the incidents really involved shootouts and the threats had to be neutralized. But the danger in these operations is their potential for grave abuse, with innocents caught in the anti-crime crossfire and the penalties unconscionably heavy for the offense. Cops also tend to use such operations to eliminate personal enemies. Before the abuses reach egregious proportions, authorities should start applying the brakes.




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