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‘Bato’: Police try to save lives of drug war victims

By: Reuters and Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald “Bato” M. dela Rosa has belied a report that pointed to a pattern of police sending corpses of drug suspects to hospitals to destroy crime scene evidence and hide executions.

President Duterte took office a year ago, launching a bloody war on drugs that has killed thousands of Filipinos.

In a television interview to mark the anniversary, Dela Rosa appeared irritated by questions about the Reuters
report, published on Thursday, and said police carrying out anti-drugs operations had a duty to save lives, even when encountering violent resistance.

He said police were not medically qualified to determine whether or not a victim was dead or alive and sent victims to hospital as part of operational procedure.

“What do you want, we let the wounded die? You don’t want us to rescue his life?” Dela Rosa told news channel ANC.

The Reuters investigation analyzed crime data from two of Metro Manila’s five police districts and included accounts of doctors, witnesses, law enforcement officials, and victims’ families.

It showed a pattern of police sending bodies to hospitals, preventing thorough crime scene investigations from taking place after the killing of drug suspects.

Dela Rosa said Reuters, which has produced a series of in-depth reports into the war on drugs that have questioned official accounts, was “looking for faults” in the police.

“PNP is damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Reuters really is looking for faults in us. We have to stand by our police operational procedure that in case of an encounter, if a person is not yet declared dead by the physician, you need to bring him to the hospital.”

He added: “Who are the policemen to say they are dead? They are not medical practitioners. If we did not bring them to the hospitals, the relatives might sue us.”

Dela Rosa said police should not be disparaged for trying to save victims and the removal of bodies from a crime scene did not mean a proper investigation could not be carried out.

“Do not put malice in what the police does,” he said. “The crime scene is there even without the dead body.”

A spokeswoman for Reuters said the news agency stood by its reporting.

Malacañang refused to comment on the report.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said they would defer their answer since the PNP has responded to the report.

“We will not make any comments regarding that matter. We will defer to the answer of General Bato po,” Abella said.

National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Oscar Albayalde told Reuters that this was the first time he heard of policemen taking drug war casualties to hospitals to cover up crime scenes.

“We will have that investigated. If proven that police were intentionally moving these dead bodies and bringing them to the hospitals just to alter the evidence, then I think we have to make them explain,” Albayalde said.