Impunity of State security forces invites more rights abuses

“How are we to make the police accountable for their crimes against the Filipino people if the President himself has seemingly made impunity a State policy? The President shrugs off the death of poor Filipinos in his drug war while at the same time, celebrates these violations and their violators. Military and police generals known for rights abuses are still being promoted,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said on recent pronouncements by the President to grant pardon for cops convicted in the course of the drug war and the promotion, and assignment of Police Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum as acting Davao police director. 

Last March 31, 2017, President Duterte, in a speech delivered in Malacanang, assured the police that they would be pardoned should they be convicted for their involvement in the drug war. He then vowed to pardon the policemen charged with the murder of Albuera town Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. after he was shot inside his jail on November 5, 2016. The president also added that they would be reinstated and promoted to a higher rank.

Also on April 3, the Philippine National Police Senior Officers Placement and Promotion Board announced the assignment of Tagum, who is currently facing administrative and criminal charges for the murder, illegal arrest and detention, and violent dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan, North Cotabato last year.

“Rights abuses are set to intensify, as President Duterte guarantees the protection of violators. As with previous regimes, police officers get promotions and accolades, instead of prosecution and jail time. The PNP, which is among the top corrupt agencies in the country, do not deserve any such favor. They should be held accountable for their crimes. We remind the President that his constituents are not the police, but the Filipino people who are victimized every day by State repression,” Palabay said.

Karapatan stated that “such statements become more unacceptable in the context of the continuing incarceration of political prisoners who continue to suffer injustice inside jails. Of the 402 political prisoners now, 71 are wrongly convicted. Why is release through pardon for political prisoners, victims of trumped-up charges, being prolonged, while policemen and State security forces who perpetrate rights abuses are guaranteed their freedom in the face of conviction?”

The release of political prisoners is among the agenda in the past and current peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). However, in the list forwarded by Karapatan to the GRP bearing the names of political prisoners to be released, including those for humanitarian considerations, none have followed through.

“Peace saboteurs from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense are seeing to it that they play their roles well in blocking the release of all political prisoners,” said Palabay.


“We again strongly call on the current administration to stop State policies that target the poor, as well as to prosecute and punish State security forces for their abuses. The least we need are cops who believe that they are immune to punishment. The thousands of poor Filipinos who are casualties of the drug war are not trophies to be proud of, Mr. President. Rather, they are victims whose families are seeking justice,” concluded Palabay.