Karapatan denounces PNP awards for cops involved in arbitrary arrests, raids in Negros

Human rights group Karapatan denounced the Philippine National Police for conferring medals of merit on the 10 cops who simultaneously implemented search warrants that led to the arrest of 57 individuals, including 13 minors in Negros Occidental. Of the 57 arbitrarily arrested on simultaneous operations in Negros last October 31, 2019, seven activists were slapped with trumped-up nonbailable charges and have remained incarcerated. The rest, including minors and workers of a bus company who were released, are still considered victims of illegal arrest and detention. Operatives responsible for the unjust deprivation of their freedom should be made accountable, not garner rewards. 

The group said that the PNP and the Duterte administration has gained reputation as guarantors of impunity, in rewarding those facing allegations of rights violations and in absolving allies caught in corruption and various questionable activities. "Prior to the awards for these 10 cops, Duterte absolved top ninja cop Oscar Albayalde and former Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Corrections head Nicanor Faeldon from any accountability in the cases where both are involved. Both have slipped from accountability and have stayed silent, owing to the protection from the President. Other infamous friends of Duterte include former President Gloria Arroyo and the Marcos family. From the political elite to the minions who do the dirty work, Duterte is consistent in actively perpetuating a climate of gross impunity," said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general. 

“The message is clear: human rights violators are awarded for actively disregarding basic human rights and civil liberties. From the October 31 operations, the fact that 37 were already released from detention, while 13 minors were already turned over to their parents and guardians, is proof that there was no probable cause in the first place. These cops should be investigated, not awarded!" insisted Palabay. 

On Monday, December 2, Police Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa personally conferred medals of merit to 10 members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) – Criminal Investigation and Detection Group with the Medal of Merit during the flag-raising ceremony in Camp Crame, Quezon City. A fact-finding mission launched in November showed that there were various irregularities during the simultaneous raid. "This could be used as basis to file administrative raps against the cops. These undeserved accolades are proof that the Duterte government does not care about due process or standard procedures, just so long as these cops are blindly obedient to the orders of their militarist masters," added Palabay. 

The Karapatan official emphasized that "despite these unlimited pass given to State forces to commit violations, impunity is not forever."

She cited that throughout several cases in the past, there are victims of human rights violations who decide to file counter-charges against identified perpetrators and succeed in putting police and military officials in jail. "One notable recent case was the conviction of three cops involved in the August 2017 killing of teenager Kian delos Santos during an operation under the government's drug war. The three cops were convicted on November 2018, about a year later. On the other hand, in line with the government's counterinsurgency program, a general was jailed and convicted last year for the disappearance of two activists. Gen. Jovito Palparan, the first military general convicted after years of hounding, is a prime example that the people's determined hounding for justice pays off," she mentioned.

Palabay also warned the soldiers and cops doing the government's bidding: "Your masters will not always be there to protect you. The militarists in government are self-serving individuals who will betray you in a drop of a hat once they are imperiled. The Duterte government will not go the extra mile for you." She also said that State forces can opt not to follow commands if orders involve committing human rights violations. 

"Cops and human rights violators may be awarded now, but this will not stop the families of the victims from exhausting all means for justice and accountability. We repeat that impunity is not forever, especially if families, advocates and other sectors join in the initiatives for justice. As this government continues to show us that it intentionally neglects its responsibility to put violators to account, it explicitly shows us that it would not stand for justice. Duterte should be rightly hailed as the chief purveyor of impunity in the country," ended Palabay.