With 3 out of 4 Filipinos worried that they or someone they know could get killed in the drug war, some are asking: Should people arm themselves and fight vigilantes? Or are police still duty-bound to go after the executioners who usurp the authority of courts to determine guilt as they carry out the irreversible penalty of death?
It could be summary executions, murders, homicides, vigilante killings, deaths under investigation, or the much-ballyhooed extrajudicial killings – or whatever other names police officials and the media use and are at odds with – but, just the same, all these are still killings that run counter to the most basic of public services the State is responsible for: safeguarding the lives of citizens.
The Social Weather Stations (SWS) March 25-28 survey showing 73 percent of 1,200 respondents “were worried that they or someone they knew would be victims of executions” speaks volumes on how a fearful citizenry perceives government capability to ensure personal safety in these difficult times.
The level of mistrust that many people seem to have for the Philippine National Police now is quite disturbing, with only about 1 in 4 Filipinos believing usual police claims that suspects fatally shot have resisted arrest and fought it out. The latest SWS survey revealed “24 percent said the police were telling the truth, 31 percent answered otherwise, and the remaining plurality 44 percent were unsure.”
Also disturbing is a news report on PNP spokesman Sr. Supt. Dionardo Carlos: “On the issue that 73 percent – from the previous survey of 78 percent – of Filipinos are worried they could be victims of summary killings, Carlos said it only shows that a majority have accepted their explanation that not all the killings perpetrated by vigilantes are drug-related.”
Is it an acknowledgment of how life has become so cheap nowadays? That law enforcers are virtually helpless in stopping cold-blooded murderers masquerading as vigilantes? That descent to barbarism is underway, with still no compelling call to bring killers to justice?
It may be troubling when PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa gives out the impression that police should not be faulted for the killings as he vehemently denies they are behind EJKs. So who should be blamed then? Whose responsibility is it to address unresolved killings and stop the murder rampage? Do innocent civilians have to bear firearms now to defend against being mistaken by vigilantes?
And many don’t find reassuring Gen. Bato’s recent rant against vigilantes whom he even challenged to a gun duel. Such effort spiced with expletives and similar to his past stunts of challenging rogue cops to a fistfight or mixed martial arts combat may smack of machismo, but it won’t do any good. He has to use brains more than brawn to be effective. He clearly has to outsmart or at least match the cunning of those destroying the image of the PNP.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson has a point in asking the PNP to make some adjustments in their tactical offensive. “The summary killings by riding in tandem and other similar methods have become too predictable and the public have grown tired of hearing the same modus operandi over and over again,” he said. “The police must therefore show solutions of these DUIs and arrests must be made in considerable degree.”
The killing rampage has to stop and more arrests – much more than the apprehension of three men allegedly belonging to a group of “vigilantes” last February in Manila – have to be made if a worried public is to be reassured. And among the best ways to achieve success would be the smart use of rotating police checkpoints. (To be continued)