CHR to Osmeña: Giving P50K reward to cops who can kill criminals may lead to abuses
The director of the Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7) on Monday cautioned Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña and other local chief executives against granting cash assistance to police officers who kill criminals in legal operations.
Lawyer Arvin Odron, CHR-7 director, said the strategy may lead to human rights abuses in the long run.
“We would like to remind our local chief executives and law enforcement sector to strictly observe the rule of law in the performance of their duties and functions regardless of whether or not a financial offer will be given for the death of a suspected criminal,” he told Cebu Daily News in a text message.
Odron warned government officials or law enforcers who violate the law would face administrative and criminal complaints.
“The CHR will continue to perform its constitutional mandate as we always do in every policing that results to the death of the suspect and will recommend the filing of a case — administrative and criminal — should there be finding of abuse,” he explained.
“The CHR will definitely monitor and investigate every law enforcement, particularly, if it costs a human life,” he said. “CHR assures everybody of its continuous monitoring on government’s compliance with human rights norms and standards pursuant to its treaty commitments.”
Msgr. Joseph Tan, media liaison officer of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said Osmeña may have just wanted to drive home a point.
“I presume the mayor is just emphasizing a point that all criminals should be on the watch because the police are seriously on the job,” he said in a phone interview.
“I would like to look at that statement not as something to be understood literally but to drive a point,” he added.
Tan begged off from issuing further statements, saying they had to wait for further clarifications from the mayor regarding the latter’s reported policy.
Osmeña has vowed to resume a program that would give P50,000 to any Cebu City policeman who could kill criminals, saying it is “necessary and automatic” if only to show support.
The amount, he said, will be taken from the city’s discretionary fund which is P7.4 million this year, and will be P7.8 million next year.
Osmeña said he could also use his own money to grant financial assistance to the police.
Cebu Daily News tried but failed to reach Senior Supt. Joel Doria, director of the Cebu City Police Office, on Monday.
In a news conference on Monday, Osmeña explained that the money isn’t a reward but sort of a financial assistance for policeman who will be facing a string of cases for neutralizing suspected criminals.
He said some policemen were afraid to go after and shoot criminals even in the line of duty because they didn’t have the means to defend themselves should cases be filed against them.
The cash assistance, he said, would provide “peace of mind” to the police.
He maintained that his program would not promote violence.
“Promote violence? What kind of twisted logic is that? Why don’t we disarm all the policemen? When policemen carry firearm, you might be promoting violence, right?” he said.
The mayor said providing cash assistance to police who could neutralize a criminal was his original idea which he implemented before President Duterte assumed office.
“No, Duterte is following me. I gave P50,000 even before Duterte was sworn in for office. Well, I can claim that he was following me. I really don’t like to put it that way, but just to make it clear, ako ang nag-una (I did it first), he said.
Osmeña lashed out at the CHR and opposition councilors in the city, saying they were protecting drug lords.
Sought for comment, Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera advised Osmeña to shut up.
“He should learn to zip his mouth because every time he makes an accusing finger, three fingers are pointing at him,” he said in a text message to Cebu Daily News.
In 2004, Osmeña created the so-called Hunters’ Team, a group of elite cops tasked to go after known criminals.
From 2004 to August 2006, at least 168 suspected or convicted criminals were reported to have been shot dead by motorcycle-riding men in vigilante-style killings linked to what was widely believed as a death squad operating in Cebu City.
It was stopped when Metro Cebu was preparing to host the 10th Association of Southeast Asian Nation Summit.
Shortly after being elected mayor again in May 2016, Osmeña announced that he would give financial assistance to policemen who could kill criminals, particularly those involved in illegal drugs.
Osmeña handed over a total of P625,000 to policemen.
Among those who received the cash rewards were police officers who killed Cebu’s top drug lord Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz and his bodyguard in Las Piñas City on June 17; and Rowen “Yawa” Secretaria, third most wanted drug lord in Central Visayas.
But the mayor later withdrew his offer of cash assistance in July 2016 after the Philippine National Police (PNP) decided to reshuffle its police officers, including former Cebu City police director Benjamin Santos.
For not supporting the programs of the city police, the National Police Commission (Napolcom) stripped Osmeña of his power and supervision over the local police in August 2016.
He asked that his supervisory powers over the local police be returned which was granted in September 2016.
Osmeña’s decision to reinstate his program for policemen came after President Rodrigo Duterte decided to allow the PNP to continue its anti-drugs operation last December 5.
It was the second time that President Duterte recalled his earlier orders and allowed the PNP to rejoin the war on drugs.
In January, he stopped all police units and stations in the country from conducting anti-illegal drug operations after narcotics officers were linked to the kidnapping and killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo inside the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
With the PNP sidelined, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) solely took into their hands the fight against drugs.
But barely after a month, President Duterte ordered the PNP to rejoin the campaign against illegal drugs because the drug menace reportedly became resurgent. Last October 11, President Duterte again stripped the PNP of its role in the drug war following the August killing of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos by the police that sparked public outrage.
The country’s top executive again called the police back to his war on drugs, saying there was a “notable resurgence in illegal drugs” when policemen took a step back in the campaign. /With Senior Reporter Ador Vincent Mayol