By Chito Chavez
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday welcomed the apology of Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ De la Rosa on his “unfortunate remark he made about the death of a three-year old being a collateral damage of buy-bust operation in Rodriguez, Rizal.’’
Although the apology was well-meaning, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia insisted this should serve as a reminder to all public officials to always protect the primacy of the right to life—both in words and actions.
“We cannot diminish its importance, alongside all other human rights, as they are crucial in living a dignified life,’’ de Guia said.
De Guia also noted the CHR has looked forward to De la Rosa’s support for bills and other measures meant to protect the welfare of the most vulnerable and marginalized that equally respects the rule of law and human rights.
Earlier, the CHR has expressed the urgent need to probe police and military operations where collateral damage has been stated when innocent victims are killed or seriously injured.
To recall, three-year-old Myka Ulpina was shot dead during a drug buy-bust operation in Rodriguez, Rizal.
The police said the child’s father Renato was the target of the operation.
During the operation, Renato and a police officer were killed.
The police claimed the child was used as a shield by the suspect who shot it out with the law enforcers.
Although unavoidable, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said investigation should be in the offing “to ensure that everything was done to avoid such mishaps and that accountabilities can equally be determined, should there be any lapses or violations’’.
Akin to ‘nanlaban’ (fighting it out) cases, de Guia insisted that deaths categorized as ‘collateral damages’ cannot be simply dismissed.
She maintained that there should always be a higher threshold in protecting the right to life.
As previously stressed, de Guia said the Constitution assures that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”
She also reminded the government, that it is their mandate to ensure that these guarantees are carried out, and not merely dismissed as “possible human rights violations nonchalantly, as part of their sworn duty to serve and protect the people’’.
“The Commission on Human Rights condemns the death of another innocent life as a consequence of the government’s war against illegal drugs,’’ de Guia said.
As there are disputes in the claims of both sides on what transpired that unfaithful day, de Guia said the CHR is monitoring the case and already dispatched a team to investigate.
De Guia asked the government to expedite the investigation on the matter and allow the rule of law to prevail.
“Inscribed in our nation’s Constitution is that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” Minors caught in the crossfire of the government’s initiative in combatting illegal drugs in the country are simply not collateral damages. They are victims. Their hopes and dreams fall short once bullet enter their bodies,’’ she added.
The CHR has supported the end of illegal drugs in the country but had continued “to echo the sentiment that the end does not justify the means’’.
“As such, the success of the government’s campaign to end illegal drugs should not merit on the number of drug suspects killed, but rather to the multitude of lives changed,’’ de Guia noted.
Meanwhile the Philippine National Police (PNP) has agreed with the stand of the CHR saying that cases of collateral damage during police operations must be probed.