Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa once again pushed for death penalty as he argued that it could save lives despite findings that the policy has not been a deterrence for crime.
During the hybrid hearing of the Senate committee on public order on a bill strengthening drug prevention and control on Tuesday, the former police chief and enforcer of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war, said that he prayed every night for the lives of people during drug operations.
“I really care for life. Ako, gabi-gabi, kung pwede lang oras-oras, nagdadasal ako kay Lord, na sana Lord walang taong masasaktan sa lahat ng ginagawang police operations namin, lahat ng ginagawang law enforcement operations, walang masaktan dahil we value life because buhay ‘yan e,” Dela Rosa said.
“Pero pagdating naman sa ganong situation, in order to save yung mga innocent lives na magiging biktima nitong droga is sana naman itong buhay ng mga drug lord na ito na wala nang ginawa kung hindi maninira ng buhay, e dapat naman sana’y mabigyan ng death penalty,” he added.
The neophyte senator also earlier blamed drug cartels in the country supposedly being run within prison cells for the prevailing drug problem.
Dela Rosa cited the National Bureau of Investigation’s latest findings on the botched shootout between the police and anti-drug agents in Quezon City last February.
The incident drew public outrage. The Philippine National Police was criticized for endangering the lives of civilians.
The NBI said an inmate at the Sablayan Penal Colony in Occidental Mindoro allegedly orchestrated the “misencounter” that occurred between the police and the anti-drug operatives.
Meanwhile, the bill being deliberated on during the hybrid Senate hearing was House Bill 7814. It seeks to amend Republic Act 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Under this proposed measure, death is the maximum punishment for drug suspects despite capital punishment still not reinstated in the country.
Drug war victims
Social media users, however, countered Dela Rosa’s claim. They reminded him of the thousands of drug war deaths. The controversial war on drugs was launched during his term as PNP chief.
“Kanino ka nagdarasal Mr. Senator Bato Dela Rosa, sa drug lord ba, shabu lord or malacañang lord?” one user wrote.
“Grandfather’s, fathers, brothers, uncles, sons and relatives dead or incarcerated. Any drug lords dead? Reduction in drug catch? Upliftment from poverty of drug runners?” another user said.
Some Filipinos also recalled his controversial remark “sh*t happens” when Dela Rosa downplayed the death of a three-year-old child during a drug sting in Rizal in 2019.
“Then when a kid gets killed in the crossfire you just say ‘sh*t happens’ right?” one user wrote.
Dela Rosa issued the remark to reporters at the Senate on July 4 of that year.
“S**t happens during operations,” he said back then.
It immediately drew widespread condemnation on social media, particularly among human rights organizations.
Following this backlash, in a television interview, Dela Rosa stated that he had already apologized to the family over his insensitive comment.
“I will recall my word. Instead of ‘shit’ let us change it to ‘unfortunate incident,’” he said that time.
The former top cop is among the top figures accused of crimes against humanity in a complaint filed before the International Criminal Court.
This move prompted the Duterte administration to withdraw from the international tribunal which took effect in March 2019.
In the same year, Dela Rosa rejected calls to inhibit from Senate investigations into the drug war amid calls to hold him accountable for enforcing it.
Activists recorded at least 27,000 people killed in the drug war wherein most victims were from the urban poor.