18 January 2011
Loretta Ann P. Rosales
Police Director General Raul Bacalzo,
Police Director Danilo Abarzosa,
Police Director Nicanor Bartolome,
Police Senior Superintendent Clarence Guinto
Police Chief Superentendent Charles Calima,
Members of the Philippine National Police,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A pleasant morning.
I am grateful for this opportunity to keynote the opening of the seminar workshop for human rights officers of the Philippine National Police. I truly appreciate the PNP's efforts to anchor its professionalization program on a solid human rights foundation. On one hand, this is attested to by the dynamic cooperation between the PNP and the Commission on Human Rights. We should continue this partnership, not for fame or reward's sake, but for the sake of the Filipino people who, as the President keeps on saying, are our bosses.
Perhaps we can start on this principle, often forgotten by people who have been privileged enough to hold a gun. The State, the Constitution says, exists to promote the common good and secure for the people the blessings of democracy and the rule of law. In a democratic society such as ours, the rule of law must serve to buttress, not diminish, the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals. When the police violate these human rights, instead of guaranteeing human them, they become no better than the worst criminal elements. They become part of the problem, a veritable cancer gnawing at the sinews of our democracy.
The sheer brutality of the incidents of police violations reported in the past several months cannot simply be brushed aside as a sporadic eruptions of macho brutality. A careful analysis points at a serious deficit in the rank and file's understanding of what it means to live and breath human rights in the line of duty.
First, let us look at the infamous cases of torture in Tondo. Police Chief Inspector Binayug, a decorated, no non-sense police officer, was videotaped kicking a naked man seen writhing in pain on the floor, tugging from time to time a piece of string tied on the man's genitals. You would ask, where did this happen? The police precinct in Asuncion, Tondo. Who were the men with Binayug, seemingly cheering him on as he tortured the naked man? Police officers, like each one of you. Did anyone care to raise his voice in dissent? No one. More importantly, did any one of those men gather his courage, go to IAS or NAPOLCOM and report on Binayug's atrocious practices? No one. It took a news report on primetime TV, and the resulting public uproar, to goad your institution to start living up to its motto – to serve and to protect – by conducting a full and fair investigation. But think again, did anyone raise his fist if not his voice to stop the monster that was Binayug?
The Commission on Human Rights notes with appreciation Binayug's dismissal. His case was the first case in Philippine law to define torture as a serious misconduct necessitating dismissal from the service. Torture is a crime, however, and the PNP, if it is to live up to its motto, must take all steps necessary to indict and convict Binayug.
The Tondo Torture Cases symbolized a veritable annus horribilis or horrible year at least as far as the public reputation of the PNP is concerned. July had come and saw the rescue of HongKong tourists taken hostage by a dismissed police officer in Manila botched, Tondo came in August, followed by the blast that marred the bar exam celebrations in September, and the brutal dispersal and arrest of protesting kuliglig drivers in December. Then several incidents of extortion, kidnapping, robbery and murder implicating scores of police officers started coming out in the news. A few weeks ago, the whole nation was again aghast in learning that a woman vendor, arrested ostensibly for violating the archaic vagrancy law, was raped by the arresting officer right inside MPD headquarters.
Last week in a meeting with Mayor Alfredo Lim of Manila, General Rongavilla expressed his lament over the defacement by picketing kuliglig drivers of the Manila's Finest marker. For him and his officers, this was an insult as grievous as it was an affront to the memory of the men the men and women of MPD who gave up their lives in the service. Going down the stairs of City Hall, he further related to me how they hurt they were seeing red paint and scratches on the monument they considered sacred. I told him, very calmly, that human dignity is more sacred. Indeed, the sacrifices of our heroic police officers must be honored, but the very fact that in the performance of their functions each and every member of the PNP puts his or her other foot on the grave should never be used as an excuse to resort to procedural shortcuts and extralegal measures. The reason is simple, shortcuts, however noble the intention, cut into the very foundation of the rule of law which we cherish as the cornerstone of our democracy. More seriously, it erodes public confidence in the ability of the State to protect the people. From our experience of Martial Law, declared and undeclared, we all know how easy it becomes for the CPP-NPA-NDF or Al Qaeda to recruit one who has witnessed the apparatus of state security turn against the very people it was supposed to protect. We can always engage in spirited discussions on the importance of giving police officers the benefit of the doubt, and to me due process is a given. But the meat of the matter is, that human rights violations committed by the state security sector negates the very reason for the State's existence.
That is what we mean when we say that the State is not entitled to claim any human right in its favor. It does not have to engage in fascistic practices in order to survive. State survival is contingent on its ability to guarantee respect for and protection of human rights. The men and women who compose the state security sector, however, may claim human rights for themselves, and not in behalf of the State. Human rights inhere in every police officer by virtue of their being human, not because he or she wears a badge.
Hence, those responsible for gross human rights violations must be held to account for their actions. Our legal framework -- from international human rights standards regulating the conduct of law enforcement operations, to our Constitutional guarantees against state abuses, reinforced by a plethora of laws -- is at the disposal of the authorities concerned, not only for exacting accountability from erring personnel, but more importantly for inspiring reforms addressing systemic issues of unprofessional conduct and gross insensitivity to the human rights of criminal suspects and those whose lives are affected by the conduct of police operations. The full force of the law must be brought to bear on them who besmirch the memory of the police force that was once Asia's finest.
Proceeding from this context and framework, your work as human rights officers in the various police stations in the country is cut out for you.
The challenge is to find effective ways to ensure that abuses of the state security sector are addressed fully, promptly and effectively. The State is making very limited progress in ending the climate of insecurity brought about by the fearsome reputation of the twin apparatuses of state power – the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Investigating and prosecuting enforced disappearances and extralegal killings are proceeding at a very slow pace, hampered by a criminal justice system that is very hostile to the rights of the victims and the accused.
Now that the PNP is institutionalizing human rights the way it should be utilized, you must work together, and with civil society and the Commission on Human Rights, to build an internal mechanism for preventing human rights abuses and violations within your ranks. We must all strive to jolt the organization from this malaise where human rights concepts, norms and standards are stuck in the cognitive level of the police, totally divorced from the reality of law enforcement operations. You must lead your fellow officers in finding ample spaces for human rights as you all discharge your duties as servants and protectors of the people.
Tama na ang utak pulbura. Gamitin ninyo angkarapatang pantao bilang gabay sa pagtupad ng inyong mga tungkulin.
As PNP Human Rights Officers you are all tasked with the development of a solid ethos based on the principle of human dignity. In the short term, a good indicator of your success would be the rise of administrative complaints filed internally and resolved internally. A more qualitative improvement would be seen when you are able to break the culture of silence, fear and impunity that has historically plagued the service. Human rights-based policing starts not with a handbook or a manual on the topic – though it is a good start indeed – but with developing a human rights conscience in every police station. You are the germ of that collective human rights conscience.
How do we nurture a human rights conscience?
First, we must show that human rights violations, like crime, do not pay. Erring or rogue members must be made to bear the full force of the full. They must not only be sanctioned administratively, they must be charged and convicted criminally as well.
Second, we must learn to correlate human rights standards and principles with actual practice. The procedural requirement, for example, of securing a judicial warrant before undertaking a search, arrest or seizure is a substantive right found not only in our Bill of Rights but in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. In the case of a warrantless arrest, prior to the conduct of an inquest, the prohibition against confessions obtained under pain or duress in the course of custodial investigations is an offshoot of a potent combination of the rights not to be deprived of life arbitrarily, to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty and to be treated as such, to access fair, speedy and adequate remedies under the law, to be treated humanely while being deprived of liberty. All these rights are found in the ICCPR but in the particular context of custodial investigations, they find expression in such laws as RA 7438 or the law defining the rights of persons undergoing custodial investigation and the Anti-Torture Act, as well as in such rules as the PNP Operational Manual and the Rights-Based Policing Handbook.
Allow me to give you a practical test before I close.
Two nights ago, in the midst of the celebrations in honor of the Santo Nino in Moriones, Tondo, a man was arrested for allegedly shooting another man. He was brought to Moriones Police Station alive, as attested to by the TV cameras. Minutes later, while undergoing interrogation, a shot was heard and the suspect was seen being carried outside, his chest bleeding. Excitedly, the officers conducting the operation declare that he was shot at, in the chest, in self defense, after allegedly trying to wrest an officer's gun.
If you were the human rights officer assigned to Moriones Police Station, what would you about this? Would you accept your fellow police officers explanation hook, line and sinker? Would you keep your mouth shut and look the other way the moment you start asking yourself – Why was the victim shot in the chest, instead of the arm or leg? Why were the interrogating officers carrying guns in the interrogation room in the first place? Why was the suspect alone in the company of the interrogating officers? Where his relatives allowed access to him?
In order to answer these questions, you do not to go online and google a copy of the ICCPR or the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Persons Deprived of Liberty, or the UN Common Standards on the Use of Firearms in Law Enforcement, or the Havana Principles on the Conduct of Law Enforcement Officials. All these standards are expressed in one way or another in your handbooks.
The question remains, what would you have done had you been there in Moriones last Sunday, or in Asuncion last August?
Looking at all your faces this morning I feel more inspired to go on. But as the President jokingly told me after my Human Rights Day speech last December, lengthy speeches are by themselves human rights violations. And so I wouldn't impinge on your right any further, but leave you with the fervent prayer that our engagement today will only be the beginning of a real transformative process in Philippine law enforcement. A process that would one day, with your able assistance and dedicated service, usher in an era of human rights-based policing.
Thank you very much.
Mabuhay kayong lahat!