By Ben Rosario and Raymund Antonio
Imposing stiffer penalties was one of the solutions proposed to put an end to human rights abuses committed by government law enforcement agents.
Human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares and indigenous people’s rights advocate Agnes Escudero raised the proposals at the second “Harapan 2019: The ABS-CBN Senatorial Town Hall Debate” last Sunday.
The two senatorial candidates also proposed the recruitment of more chaplains to offer spiritual and moral guidance to policemen is another antidote to human rights abuses.
Colmenares and Escudero are among eight senatorial candidates who showed up at the ABS-CBN Senatorial Town Hall Debate, supported by the Manila Bulletin as the network’s media partner.
But former Senator Mar Roxas and former Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada of Otso Diretso senatorial slate, said body and dash board cameras may do the trick.
Eight senatorial candidates who made good their promise to appear at the televised debate aired various responses to Marissa Lazaro, whose son was killed following an alleged shootout with policemen.
In tears, Lazaro recounted how police claimed that her 22-year-old son was involved in robbery and had fired at them. But during investigation, she noted that her son had been handcuffed, indicating that he was already under police custody when shot.
Reacting to Lazaro’s tale, Colmenares said stiff penalties and new laws that would stop state-sponsored killings are among the effective antidotes to abusive police force.
Escudero sympathized with Lazaro, but pointed out the need for policemen to have spiritual and moral guidance.
“Kailangan ng kapulisan ng mga chaplain para magbigay ng moral, spiritual na pagtatag sa kanilang pagkatao (Policemen need chaplains to keep them morally and spiritually strong),” she said.
As his senatorial rivals took turns in condemning alleged extrajudicial killings committed by the police, independent senatorial bet Abner Afuang, a former Makati City policeman, protested the failure of human rights advocates to take cognizance of the killing of policemen.
“Mayroon infrastructure of impunity sa paglabag sa katarungan pantao sa gobyerno. Suportado ng gobyerno ang mga pulis na involved sa pagpatay,” said Colmenares.
The human rights activist stressed that human rights abuses can be fought before three arenas – by passing a law punishing state-sponsored killing, court action, and by protesting on the street.
Roxas, who had served as Interior and Local Government secretary, said mandatory installation of body and dashboard cameras can be effective deterrents of police abuse.
“Naka-record kung ano talaga ang nangyari at hindi na na mauulit ang paglabag sa mga batas,” he said.
Tañada backed Roxas’ proposal for the installation of cameras that would stand witness against abuses.
“Mahusay na training ng police officers, kung hindi ito gagawin tiyak na marami pa rin bad eggs sa pulisya,” the former Quezon congressman added.
Magdalo senatorial candidate Gary Alejano batted for reforms in the police recruitment procedure, saying this should put an end to corruption.
Alejano recommended the creation of a strong Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Service and firing abusive policemen, instead of transferring them to other assignments.
Federalism advocate Conrado “Ding” Generoso said the draft federal constitution submitted by the 22-man
Consultative Commission contains provisions that will guarantee that justice will be given to victims of human rights.
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal noted that there has been no victim of human rights among the rich.
Term limit, federalism, death penalty opposed
Meanwhile, the senatorial candidates oppose the removal of politicians’ term limits in office, the shift to a federal form of government, and the re-imposition of the death penalty.
At the “Fast Talk” segment of the debate, Generoso, spokesman of President Duterte’s Consultative Commission (Con-Com), acknowledged that lifting of the term limit was the “stumbling block” for federalism.
Generoso said that in the draft federal charter proposed by the Con-Com, only two terms are allowed for politicians.
“Hindi. Dapat may term limits (No. There should be term limit),” Alejano, a former Marine captain, said when asked about the removal of politicians’ term limits in office.
Alejano, Macalintal, Tañada, and Afuang said they were not in favor of federalism.
Alejano: Hindi. Hindi pa tayo handa. Ang mayaman lalong yayaman, ang mahirap lalong hihirap. (No, we are not ready for federalism. The rich will become richer, the poor will become poorer.)
Tañada: Hindi ako pabor. Dahil hindi pa napag-uusapan husto ‘yung negative effects nito. (I’m not in favor. Because its negative effects have not been discussed thoroughly.)
Macalintal: Hindi ako pabor kasi hindi pa tayo handa sa ganyang uri ng gobyerno. (I’m not in favor because we are not yet ready for that kind of government.)
Afuang: Hindi. (No.)
The Senate bets attending the second debate were also asked where they stood on peace talks, legalizing the use of medical marijuana, and same sex marriage.
Colmenares, Alejano, and Tañada agreed on the resumption of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.
Colmenares: Dapat ang pagkapayapaan, iginiit natin ‘yun. (We have to push for peace.)
Alejano: Sa akin, gusto ko ng kapayapaan. Dapat may peace talks tayo. (For me, I want peace. Let us have peace talks.)
Tañada: Kailangan muling buksan. Naniniwala ako sa kapayapaan. (It needs to be reopened. I believe on peace.)
On medical marijuana:
Alejano: Hindi. (No.)
Tañada: Pabor ako dahil iyan ay nagpapagaan sa epekto ng ibang sakit. (I’m in favor because it lessens the effects of other sickness.)
Agnes Escudero: No.
On same sex marriage:
Alejano: Hindi. (No.)
Tañada: Hindi ako pabor dahil mas pabor ako sa civil union partnerships. (I’m not in favor because I’m in favor of civil union partnerships.)
Macalintal: Hindi dapat ‘yan pero ginagalang ko ang karapatan ng bawat isa. (That should not be allowed but I respect the rights of everyone.)