'Shit happens': Collateral damage in police ops can't be avoided says Bato

MANILA, Philippines – Collateral damage can happen in legitimate police missions, said erstwhile top cop now Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, reacting to the death of a 3-year-old girl in a crossfire during a buy-bust operation.

"Sabi ko nga (As I said, it's an) imperfect world... Shit happens," Dela Rosa told reporters on Thursday, July 4.

"Sino ba gusto? Ikaw pulis ka, gusto mo bata matamaan? Never," he said. (Who wants that? If you're a policeman, do you want children to be caught in between a crossfire? Never.)

Police Senior Master Sergeant Conrado Cabigao went undercover to "transact" with suspects Renato Dolorfina and a cohort, in Rodriguez, Rizal on June 29.

Police claimed that the suspects pulled out their guns, setting off a shootout. Police said Dolorfina used his daughter as a human shield.

Cabigao was shot in the neck while the 3-year-old girl sustained a gunshot wound in the head. Cabigao was declared dead on arrival while the child died the next day.

"Aminin ko sa inyo, mayroong nangyayari na talagang in the course of operations. Honest to goodness na talagang may nagiging collateral damage," the senator said.

(I will confess that something like this really happens in the course of operations. Honest to goodness, that there will really be a collateral damage.)

Dela Rosa said the incident could warrant an investigation: "Pwede. (We can)"

"In aid of legislation, we can legislate some amendments sa batas para maiwasan na yung mga ganu'ng nangyayari. Tignan natin. Gagawan natin ng batas na may bata sa loob, 'wag kang pumasok kasi baka mamatay, matamaan bata," Dela Rosa said.

(In aid of legislation, we can legislate some amendments in the law to avoid such circumstance. Let's see. Let's craft a law that would say prevent the police from going inside a place where there is a child because it might kill the child.)

War on drugs 'successful'

On Thursday, Dela Rosa also said that he believed that the Duterte adminsitration's war on drugs has so far been "successful."

"Relative ang pagtingin natin diyan. Sa tingin ko, successful tayo diyan (war on drugs), (How we see it, it's relative. I believe we're successful with the war on drugs)," he said.

But he admitted that the President's pronouncement to make the Philippines "drug-free" is a tall order."

"Everybody wants to achieve that most ideal situation that we would want. Ako nga, gusto ko maging drug-free ang Pilipinas pero mahirap marating 'yan. We have to satisfy sarili natin na merong nangyayari," he told reporters.

(Everybody wants to achieve that most ideal situation that we would want. I want the Philippines to be drug-free but it's hard to achieve. We have to be satisfied that there is something happening.)

Dela Rosa was the overseer of the Duterte administration's bloody campaign against illegal drugs, which is currently under preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court. (READ: The Impunity Series)

Based on the latest government data, a total of 5,050 drug suspects had been killed in law enforcement operations. But human rights groups estimate over 20,000 deaths including vigilante-style killings in the campaign. 

The former top cop is poised to chair in the 18th Congress the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, previously headed by Senator Panfilo Lacson, himself a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.  – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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