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CHR doubts QC ‘shootout’ claim

Posted by Abi Kwok on February 26, 2009

By Abigail Kwok

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday continued to doubt whether the incident in Quezon City Tuesday last week that led to the deaths of three suspected car thefts was a shootout as police maintain.

“Circumstances or facts so far gathered in the course of the initial investigation of the CHR team raise serious questions on the claims that it was a pure and simple shootout incident,” said CHR chair Leila de Lima during a press conference at Camp Crame where a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Hans Seidel Foundation and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

De Lima cited the initial report of the CHR investigating team, which found “questionable” circumstances.

“Among the circumstances there that our investigating team found questionable includes [the fact that] the windows were rolled up; the driver’s side was spared [from being shot]; [and] there were no shots at the tire,” she said.

“We are interested about when the shootout actually started. EDSA is a busy street [at] that particular time. Where was the shootout? It could be there was a legitimate shootout in the beginning, but somehow [it] turned into something else,” she said.

A thorough review of the raw footage taken by an ABS-CBN television crew showed that, although it appeared that the alleged shootout was over, policemen fired at least 11 more shots at the apparently immobilized suspects, De Lima said.

“Nakalupaypay na, pero binaril pa rin [They were down, but they were still shot]. There were still other volleys of shots. Yun ang hindi naman maintindihan saan nanggaling yung mga ganung shots [That is what we cannot understand, where those shots were coming from], when there was supposed to be no shootout anymore,” she said.

But De Lima acknowledged that they have yet to complete their investigation and are waiting the report of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) on the incident, as well as the results of ballistic examinations.

She said they will be able to make a reasonable judgment about whether the incident was a shootout or a rubout, as some quarters allege, once they have the SOCO report and ballistics test results.

Another hindrance to the CHR’s investigation, she said, is that witnesses have yet to execute sworn statements.

“There are possible witnesses but no one is yet willing to execute sworn statements,” De Lima said.

On Monday, a fact-finding team created by the Quezon City Police District concluded that the suspects died in a shootout in the course of a legitimate police operation. However, it also said one policeman, caught on television footage firing three successive shots at an immobilized suspect, had used excessive force.

The National Police Commission (Napolcom) has also suspended 29 policemen involved in the operation.

But De Lima said the suspensions were not enough.

“I fully expect that those responsible for the latest incident at EDSA, an unmistakably sorry example of police officers on the wrong side of human rights protection, will not just be preventively suspended or transferred or relieved, they must be punished. They must be punished not just for arbitrarily taking the life of suspected criminals, but for violating the sacredness of human rights that belong to the very people they serve,” she said.

The CHR chief said criminal charges should be filed if needed.

“What is the value of violating [the] rights of criminals when the end objective is to protect the rights of everyone? What is the value in depriving criminals of their rights to life, to due process, freedom from torture and other degrading punishments, when such violations strike fear into every citizen that they, too, may someday be violated in their own right?” she asked.

De Lima said all policeman need to take human rights seminars and trainings “to show that in spite of the stress, the confusion, the adrenaline that attends armed encounters, the environment that they operate in, policemen are still able to clearly uphold human rights.”


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