COMPLAINTS pertaining to human rights abuses by members of the Philippine National Police have been on the decline from 2014 to date despite claims by some quarters that police have been committing wanton rights abuses since the Duterte government launched a massive crackdown against illegal drug trafficking and abuse, the head of the PNP unit tasked to monitor police abuses said.
PNP Human Rights Affairs Office (HRAO) director, Chief Superintendent Dennis Siervo told the Journal Group that in 2014, they recorded 174 complaints against police personnel with the number going down to 131 in 2015 and 105 in 2016. “The number of complaints in 2016 actually went down by almost 40 percent compared to the figures in 2014,” he said.
The PNP-HRAO is closely monitoring police operations across the country to see to it that all police officers involved have followed standard police operating procedures including the conduct of arrests, checkpoints, civil disturbance management operations, hot pursuit and raids.
As a standard policy, police recruits and those who are slated for promotion are required to strictly attend lectures on human rights and proper procedures. PNP-HRAO lecturers also go around the country to lecture police on their standard operating procedures and at the same time remind them on professionalism and competency.
The Unit is also regularly inspecting all PNP lock-up facilities across the country; has made a policy prohibiting all forms of torture, hazing and other cruel, inhuman and degrading acts in the conduct of police training courses and all other police functions; issued an advisory regarding ‘fake arrest and arbitrary detention of innocent civilian by the police,’ and established human rights desks nationwide as part of a program anchored on a national human rights monitoring system.
The official said all of these are part of the PNP’s strict adherence to international human rights laws and other basic procedures aimed at protecting human rights. The PNP-HRAO is also involved in the monitoring of police jails and other detention facilities in the country where the government has banned the operations of secret jail and stockades amid claims they are being used to torture custodial prisoners in the past.
Siervo said that in coordination with the Commission on Human Rights, they are monitoring areas where there have been many reported cases of alleged human rights violations committed by the local police in the past.
“There is a downward trend on personnel involved in human rights violations so pababa despite ’yung half of the previous year there was a change of administration. If you think the war on illegal drugs will escalate the number of human rights violations, the statistics show that it goes down. It did not contribute to the rise of human rights violations,” Siervo said.
The official said that of the 105 complaints they investigated last year, many include homicide, illegal arrest and arbitrary detention and rape. At present, 56 police officers and men are being investigated by the PNP-HRAO.
“There have been some policemen who were dismissed from the service for violation of human rights, not just criminal cases,” he said as he vowed to continue organizing human rights violation forum with different sectors across the country as part of the PNP’s commitment to observe human rights.
Records showed that incidents of extrajudicial killings were on its peak in 2005 and 2006 with a record of 66 and 70 cases respectively.
This prompted the PNP leadership to activate the PNP-HRAO on June 29, 2007 to integrate all PNP efforts and develop a systematic and holistic implementation of human rights programs and activities.
The unit was also given the task to review, formulate and recommend human rights policies and programs including administrative and legal measures on human rights; monitor investigations and legal/judicial processes related to human rights violations; undertake information campaign on PNP human rights initiatives; establish links with concerned agencies involved in handling human rights violation or HRV cases versus police personnel; and perform other tasks as directed by the Chief PNP.
Major issues encountered by the PNP-HRAO in performing their duties include incidents of alleged human rights violations involving police officers and men and the fact that the rights of the police in the performance of their functions are being transgressed.
There is also the limited authority of the HRAO to direct and supervise Police Human Rights Officers in the 18 police regional offices; the depletion of Police Commissioned Officers in their office; the congestion in all PNP custodial facilities; and the failure to provide adequate basic necessities for persons under police custody.
The PNP-HRAO made several recommendations regarding the congestion problem in PNP custodial facilities.
They include the following: representation and collaboration with the Supreme Court Administrator for the immediate issuance of commitment order on arrested persons; the speedy disposition of cases; the immediate transfer of suspects to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology after the filing of case even if preliminary investigation is being invoked; and last but not the least; the need to provide adequate food provisions and other basic necessities of a person under police custody.
Siervo also said they have not received any complaint about policemen getting involved in alleged ‘palit-ulo’ scheme as claimed by Vice President Leni Robredo. “We are not getting complaints regarding her version of palit-ulo. Hindi ako nakarinig ng gano’ng situation. Hindi ko alam kung totoong nangyari ’yan,” he said.
The vice-president said ‘palit-ulo’ is a scheme in which police round up people in poor communities while looking for drug targets. If they fail to catch their prey, police will allegedly seize the wife, husband or a distant relative of their target to force him to surface.
However, PNP chief, Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa said police are not employing such a scheme. Instead, he explained that the ‘palit-ulo’ being employed by the police in the past is one in which an arrested drug offender is being asked by his arresting officers to squeal on the main source of the drugs seized from him. In case he cooperates with the police, the guy is charged with a lesser offense.
Siervo maintained that the alleged ‘palit-ulo’ being mentioned by Mrs. Robredo is an unlawful act that would bring one cop into deep trouble if he really has committed such an offense. The case against such a cop would be arbitrary detention and unlawful arrest, he said.
His appeal to the public: please don’t hesitate in reporting to the PNP-HRAO possible human rights violations being committed by the police. “We will forward complaints to the PNP Internal Affairs Service and the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management for the conduct of formal investigation. Based on their findings, we will file human rights violation charges against the policemen involved,” he said.