CASH REWARD ALARMS CHR
The Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR 7) raised an alarm over what could lead to a local government-sanctioned abuse by law enforcers in the wake of the cash reward that Cebu City Mayor-elect Tomas Osmeña has offered to policemen, barangay tanods and even civilians who can kill or injure criminal elements.
While it is the prerogative of the chief executive of a local government unit to offer cash rewards or incentives to people who could help fight criminality, CHR 7 director Arvin Odron described Osmeña’s cash reward scheme as prone to abuses by law enforcers.
Even more alarming, added Odron, was that the reward system might even embolden civilians and barangay tanods (village watchmen) into engaging in extra-judicial killings because of the monetary consideration involved.
“Amo nang tutokan. Murag naalarma sab mi kay dili man gud na usual nga policy sa mga local executives,” he said. (We will closely watch this. We are alarmed because this is not the usual policy of local executives.)
Odron warned they would would not allow law enforcers or civilians to run roughshod with the human rights of individuals, even if they are criminal elements.
He stressed punishment would be “severe” for those engaged in acts that would arbitrarily deprive a person of life and liberty.
Odron stressed that even as the rights of policemen must be respected, they also have the obligation to protect the human rights of the people because they are representing the government, which is committed to abide by local and international laws that protect human rights.
That’s why, Odron said, they were concerned that Osmeña’s reward system would instead entice law enforcers to directly kill a suspected criminal even if it’s not necessary.
He said the P50,000 cash reward for every criminal killed is too tempting to pass up for a policeman, as it is more than enough to support his daily needs.
“This might entice policemen to shoot a criminal intentionally, not to immobilize or temporarily disable a suspect who is endangering the life of a policeman, but to just shoot at them because of the P50,000 cash,” he said.
Odron said they would review all recent cases of shooting involving criminal elements, including yesterday’s killing of a suspected drug dealer, and any incident found to be “highly suspicious” would be thoroughly investigated.
Those found to have engaged in arbitrary killings or found liable for human rights violation would face criminal charges, he stressed.
Odron said CHR would not ask Osmeña to stop the cash reward because it is his prerogative. But, he said, “Akong mensahe lang ni (my message to) Mayor Osmeña is let us do it in a legal way.”
Osmeña was unperturbed, insisting no human right was being violated as his cash reward would also only be given to those who could kill the criminals “in a legal way.”
He also scoffed at Odron’s warning, saying CHR only seemed to be concerned with protecting the rights of criminals rather than the victims of crimes.
“Mao na ang ilang trabaho. Ang trabaho sa Commission on Human Rights mohatag silag protection sa mga kriminal. Sa akong bahin, ganahan gyod ko mohatag og protection sa mga biktima sa krimen,” Osmeña said.
(This is what the CHR does, to give protection to criminals. For me, I would rather give protection to the crime victims.)
What is important now, he said, was that his move already produced results.
“At least naa nay resulta (bisan) di pa ko mayor. Kagabii naay usa nga namatay, dead on arrival. So mao na ang ipakita sa mga tawo…akong ipakita sa mga badlongon, tan-awa ra ang score karon: Duterte zero, Osmeña 1.” He laughed. (At least I produced results even if I am not yet the mayor. Last night one was killed; dead on arrival. This is what I want to show to the people. I want criminals to take a look at the score: Duterte zero, Osmeña, 1.)
For Osmeña, the message was clear: criminality has no room in his administration.
“I don’t want them (criminals) to die, just stay out of crime. That’s all. But if you get into crime, you’re getting into war. If you’re getting into war, we want you to be the casualty,” he said in a press conference yesterday at his residence in Barangay Guadalupe.
He gave the pronouncement after handing P20,000 in cash to PO3 Julius Regis, who shot two robbery suspects last Tuesday.
Osmeña even joked that he was able to save money since Regis was not able to kill the two suspects.
If he had, the policeman would have received P100,000 as reward, he said.
Under Osmeña’s rules, a policeman would get P5,000 per injured criminal. But since Regis was off-duty during the incident, he got P10,000 per injured suspect. If the suspects, who are still in the hospital, would eventually die, Osmeña said he was willing to give the full amount of P50,000 to Regis.
But Osmeña noted that Regis’s failure to shot dead the two robbery suspects only showed that the city’s policemen would need to be retrained in marksmanship.
Regis became emotional when asked how he felt about the reward, explaining he was not after a reward and was only trying to help the victim, an elderly woman. Regis said he still would not know what to do with the cash reward.
On the other hand, Osmeña remained mum as to how he raised the cash for the reward.
“I will not issue any statements that will not be to the best interest of people who are helping me. I will not comment on where the money’s coming from, except to guarantee that it’s not government money. That’s all. Beyond that, I don’t like to incriminate myself or anybody,” he said.
Osmeña said he also asked all police units in the city to respond to all phone calls made to the police station, even if it only involved a case of a stolen pair of slippers or somebody complaining about a neighbor’s loud karaoke.
“There must be 100 percent response. If they do not even follow once, I will remove him from the place. That’s a very important rule. I want the public to know that the police is there for them,” he said.
He said he would also want the policemen to put in their blotter every single response they made no matter how trivial. “In other words, I want the crime rate to shoot up. I have a crazy mind. If the crime rate has shot up, that means you’re doing your job,” he said.
Osmeña said his decision would not change even after paying a courtesy call to Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma yesterday. Palma earlier publicly called on Osmeña to reconsider his reward scheme.
“We discussed that very briefly but I said, I’m not interested in killing people. But fact is that these people don’t mind killing people. So I’m telling them that we don’t want us to kill you, then don’t kill anyone and don’t do the crime here,” Osmeña said of his meeting with Palma.
He also his meeting with Palma was meant to “keep the lines of communication” open so they could still talk to each other.
Osmeña said offering the cash reward system was something that he needed to do because criminals “only understand fear.”
“We will push them to the wall. That’s it. These people don’t listen to what priests say,” he added.
He said he also offered the reward system to civilians because this might encourage them to also try to prevent crimes from happening right in front of them.
“If you see crime in progress and you stop the crime, I will find a way to reward you. You see your neighbor being robbed or being hurt or being something like that, I will find a way to reward you,” Osmeña said.
He added he has no plan to impose a limit to the number of criminals that has to be killed or injured, saying, “the more, the merrier.”
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