Who Will Protect Us From Our Protectors?
The video has made its way around social media by now. A heated argument that was initially about firecrackers devolved into violence and ended up with two unarmed individuals crumpling to the ground, dead from gunshot wounds to the head.
And the person holding the literal smoking gun was, no surprise, a policeman.
It’s a chilling video; one that will stay in the minds of those who’ve seen it for a long time. But make no mistake—a huge reason this issue blew up the way it did is because of this video. There’s little room for doubt about what exactly happened in one of the most shocking instances of police overstepping their bounds and abusing the power they wield.
We’ve all known the police in this country leaves much to be desired. In a country with a population over 100 million, Filipino law enforcers have their work cut out for them (studies say the Philippines has one of the smallest forces per population in the world), but reports such as what happened in Paniqui, Tarlac only reinforces the impression that, for many people, police just can’t be trusted.
And if there are still people unconvinced that this is an isolated incident, here’s a look back at some of the most recent high-profile crime stories where the police, ironically enough, were the suspected perpetrators:
August 16, 2017
Seventeen-year-old Kian Delos Santos is killed near his home in Caloocan City. CCTV video released later showed policemen dragging Kian through the streets and shooting him, although officers initially said the victim shot at them and they were merely defending themselves.
March 29, 2020
Two policemen were the main suspects in the rape of two female detainees in Marikina. The victims underwent custodial debriefing, after which the cops allegedly brought them to an office where they were sexually assaulted.
April 21, 2020
At the height of stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, a police officer shot and killed Winston Ragos in Brgy Pasong Putik in Quezon City. Reports said the 33-year-old former infrantryman with the Armed Forces of the Philippines was reaching for something inside his shoulder bag when the cop shot him twice.
April 27, 2020
A secret detention cell was discovered behind a bookshelf inside Station 1 of the Manila Police District. A total of 12 men and women were being kept inside the cell for at least 10 days, inside the cramped space that was poorly ventilated. Police said they were processing the papers of the prisoners and initially refused to let the detainees out.
July 2, 2020
A 15-year-old girl was raped and then killed, allegedly by police officers from San Juan, Ilocos Sur. The girl and her 18-year-old cousin was reportedly detained first for violating curfew on June 28 while she was on her way home. After they filed a complaint with the Cabugao police station, the victim was shot and killed by two men on a motorcycle. The suspects were later identified as police officers.
October 29, 2020
Cadets from the Philippine National Police Academy are being investigated for the alleged hazing of fellow PNPA cadet John Desiderio. The victim had to undergo an operation after he was diagnosed with internal bleeding October 29.
November 11, 2020
Baguio City resident Harjan Lagman’s headless body was found in the town of Tublay, Benguet last month. Suspects were later identified to be two members of the Cordillera regional police drug enforcement unit. On December 18 it was reported that the DEU had been disbanded.
With the exception of Kian delos Santos’ case, all of these are just incidents within the last two years. We’re well aware that there are many more cases involving the police in previous years. And we're not holding our breath that things will get better in the coming years, no matter how much we want it to be so.
Some people say that these are just isolated incidents, but if the police, who are supposed to protect us from bad things, are the very people committing said bad things, who will protect us from our protectors?