A human rights lawyer has called on Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña to study thoroughly a policy that would grant a police officer a financial assistance of P50,000 for every slain criminal.
Lawyer Democrito Barcenas said the strategy is open to abuse and must be stopped.
“That is a very risky gamble. It invites more impunity among policemen. While his motive to curtail criminality maybe good, in the process, it also promotes criminality, ironically, among peace officers. If the criminals themselves come from the police, that is even worse,” he told Cebu Daily News.
Barcenas said only the courts can determine whether or not a person is guilty of committing an offense. Killing a person, even if no case has been filed yet, violates one’s right to due process.
“Giving money to the police for every killed ‘criminal’ is like giving policemen the discretion to play God, that is they have the power who to kill and who to spare,” he said.
“Who will determine whether or not the person killed was really guilty of an offense? Only the courts can do that,” he added.
Cebu City Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia, in a separate interview, suggested a legal team should be created that will assist policemen, instead of releasing money for every dead crime suspect.
He said hiring lawyers individually is more expensive than creating a legal team that will commit to defend the policemen.
Councilor Joel Garganera said giving P50,000 to every policeman who kills criminals only shows the inefficiency of Osmeña’s leadership.
He advised the police to follow standard operating procedures in dealing with crime suspects.
Last week, Osmeña announced that he would revive a program that would grant P50,000 to any Cebu City policeman who could kill criminals, saying it is “necessary” if only to show his support in the war against all forms of criminality.
The amount, he said, would be taken from the city’s discretionary fund, which is P7.4 million this year, and P7.8 million next year.
Osmeña said he could also use his own money to grant financial assistance to the police.
He stressed the money would not be a reward but a financial assistance for policeman who could potentially face a string of cases for neutralizing suspected criminals.
Osmeña’s decision to reinstate his program for policemen came after President Rodrigo Duterte, in an order dated Dec. 5, 2017, decided to allow the Philippine National Police (PNP) to resume its involvement in anti-drugs operation that is still going to be led by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Refresher seminar on human rights
Supt. Artemio Ricabo, deputy director for administration of the Cebu City Police Office, welcomed Osmeña’s move, saying the amount would be a big help to the policemen.
While the PNP has its own lawyers, he said they are not enough to attend to all policemen who were charged over the deaths of suspected criminals.
Ricabo said the P50,000 offered by the mayor would enable the policemen to hire lawyers who would defend them in court or at the Office of the Ombudsman.
He, however, assured the public that the police will not abuse their power and will follow the law in dealing with suspected criminals.
In fact, Ricabo said, that at least 30 operatives of the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) in Cebu City would have to undergo a seminar to be conducted by the Comission on Human Rights (CHR) before they could resume their anti-illegal drug operations.
“We want to refresh them about the rights of every individual. We want to remind them the importance of human rights,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.
Ricabo added that even if they had been taken of the war on drugs, they continue to conduct surveillance operations against drug personalities operating in Cebu City.
Last Dec. 5, President Duterte ordered the PNP to resume its anti-drug operations and to actively support the PDEA in the war on drugs.
This was the second time that the President recalled his earlier orders that pulled the PNP out of the drug war.
In January, he stopped all police units and stations in the country from conducting anti-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.
But barely a month after, President Duterte ordered the PNP to rejoin the campaign because of the resurgence of the drug menace.
On 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.
Last week, he again called the police back into his war on drugs, saying there was again a “notable resurgence in illegal drugs” when policemen were taken out from the campaign.