MANILA, Philippines – Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo called plans of certain lawmakers to conduct an investigation into anti-drug police operations an "attempt to discredit" law enforcement agencies.
Panelo said that because there is no call from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to conduct a probe, any Senate investigation could be likened to a demolition job against the Philippine National Police (PNP), the agency most visibly pursuing drug personalities.
"I don't hear any investigation coming from [the CHR]. Any attempt therefore to conduct a Senate investigation by any member, especially of that particular Senate who wants to conduct the investigation may be viewed as an attempt to discredit the police operations against the drug menace," Panelo told Malacañang reporters on Monday, July 11.
In a written version of his statement, Panelo called any Senate probe into the matter "an attempt to raise doubts on the legitimacy of the police operations."
Panelo did not name any lawmakers but Senator Leila de Lima and Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr earlier made calls for both houses of Congress to look into the recent spike of drug suspects killed during police operations.
Both De Lima and Baguilat are members of the Liberal Party.
Panelo's statement mirrors that of Solicitor General Jose Calida, who has accused De Lima of calling for a probe only to gain "media mileage."
While Panelo said he respects the "duty" of lawmakers to initiate investigations in aid of legislation, he said calls for such investigations lack basis.
"It appears, as I can see it, there is no basis other than speculation and conjecture," said the lawyer.
He seemed to place trust in internal processes of the PNP to probe killings of civilians.
"The police agency conducts, immediately, an investigation when a civilian is killed in the process of arrest," Panelo said.
But De Lima, responding to Calida, asked why the PNP would be told not to participate in a probe if they abided by all the protocols.
Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler
Many of the deaths of suspected drug pushers or drug lords happened during police raids. In many of these raids, police claimed that the suspects fought back, allowing them to use deadly force.
President Rodrigo Duterte, whose promise to suppress drugs in 3 to 6 months drives the PNP's anti-drug campaign, vowed in his inaugural speech that he would respect due process.
"My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising," he said then. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.