Dela Rosa: 'Very sorry' to kin of drug suspects killed by police

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of the story said Kian was among 25 killed in Caloocan. The 25 killings happened in Manila, while Kian was among 13 reported dead in Caloocan. We apologize for the error.

MANILA, Philippines – Saying he knows the pain they're going through, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Friday, August 18, apologized to families of drug suspects killed in police operations.

Dela Rosa made the apology in response to reporters' questions in a media interview in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, a day after CCTV footage of a supposed 17-year-old drug runner killed in a police raid made the rounds on social media and stoked public outrage.

"Sa mga pamilya na umaalma, alam kong masakit talaga 'yan sa pamilya na mamatayan (To the protesting families, I know that it hurts losing a member). We understand your feelings. We are very sorry, we are very sorry for what had happened," he said at the sidelines of the National Capital Region Police Office celebration of the 116th PNP Service Anniversary in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

The PNP chief did not mention the casualties of the drug war nor their families in his speech at the event.

On Tuesday, August 15, Manila police killed 25 alleged drug suspects in a "one-time, big-time" operation.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte launched his all-out war on drugs when he assumed office, thousands of drug suspects have been killed in police operations. Families of the slain suspects have cried foul play by the police, and denied their relatives were killed because they fought back. (READ: The Impunity Series)

'Police better alive than dead'

Dela Rosa added, however, that while he was sorry, he would rather see his men alive than killed by criminals.

"I'd rather buhay 'yung pulis ko kesa patay 'yung pulis ko. 'Yun lang po sa akin. Kung pulis ko rin mamamatayan, ako rin ang ma-a-agrabyado at saka 'yung pamilya ng pulis na namatay, magsasama ang loob namin," Dela Rosa said.

(I would rather have my police alive than dead. If my policemen die, I would be at the losing end, and the family of the police will feel bad too.)

Still, he gave the the families of the slain suspects his word that he would have all their cases investigated. (READ: Drilon asks Aguirre: Why only 37 cases out of 4,000 killings?)

"'Wag kayong mag-alala. Ayaw na ayaw ko ng abuso. Siguruhin natin 'yan. Gusto ko kaming mga pulis ay ruthless pagdating sa operation, pagdating sa drugs. Pero dapat 'wag mag-abuso, dapat 'wag mandamay ng taong dapat 'di madamay," Dela Rosa said.

(Don't worry. If there's one thing I don't really like it's abuse. We will make sure of that. I want policemen to be ruthless when it comes to operations, when it comes to drugs. But we should not be abusive, we should not hurt innocent people.) –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.