Press Release
January 28, 2021

Hontiveros questions SOPs of PNP, AFP amid "trigger-happy" officers involved in unlawful killings

"Bunot ng baril kaagad ba ang sagot sa mga tao? Hindi man lamang nila mahanapan ng paraan para kausapin? Hindi kaya masyado nang trigger happy?"

This statement from Senator Risa Hontiveros who questioned the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights probed a spate of unlawful killings since 2020.

Hontiveros, who co-authored proposed Senate Resolution No. 599 which prompted the said investigation, said that while the law allows uniformed personnel to use force to defend themselves as they perform their mandate, violence should only be used as a last resort.

"Is the Step 1 in our Operating Procedure just: open fire, no questions asked? Parang ang mura ng buhay ng tao kung ganon na lang tayo kabilis bumunot at magpaputok ng baril," she said.

The senator then pointed to incidents involving questionable use of force by the police and the military.

For instance, the killing of senior citizens Agaton Topacio and Eugenia Magpantay, who were shot in their home by police officers in Angono, Rizal. The PNP reportedly gave conflicting accounts to justify their deaths, claiming that the elderly and sickly couple had either fired at the police, or attempted to flee during the pre-dawn raid.

Hontiveros also cited the killing of journalist Ronnie Villamor, who was shot by Philippine Army troops in a military checkpoint in Milagros, Masbate. While the military claims that Villamor was armed and died in a firefight with soldiers, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported that soldiers fired at Villamor as he was attempting to call local police so that he and four surveyors could pass the checkpoint.

"Ibig sabihin ba nito, kahit isang buong arresting team na ang dala ng mga pulis, hindi pa rin nila kinayang arestuhin ang dalawang sakitin na senior citizen? Kahit sa mga dumadaan lang sa checkpoint, dahas rin agad ang paraan ng negosasyon?" Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros stressed the PNP and the AFP must formulate more intensive de-escalation trainings for their personnel, in order to prevent violent incidents during interactions with civilians.

"I would like to believe that an overwhelming majority of our uniformed personnel are committed to their mandate to protect their fellow Filipinos. But it seems that our police and military personnel would really benefit from a thorough de-escalation training. They need to be able to better handle tense situations without the use of violence, especially in dealing with ordinary civilians," Hontiveros said.

Such a de-escalation training program, Hontiveros said, will complement other reforms to the PNP and AFP such as wider human rights education and faster disposition of cases involving abuse or violence by uniformed personnel.

"Hopefully, such reforms will transform the AFP and the PNP so that these killings will become a thing of the past," she concluded.

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