THE Philippine National Police leadership headed by General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa yesterday vehemently denied a claim by the Commission on Human Rights that President Duterte had ordered them to stall the investigation into alleged human rights killings since 2016.
“The Philippine National Police categorically denies that President Rodrigo Duterte issued any order prohibiting the release of information or data with regard to the ongoing investigation on the recent attacks against rights defenders and activists,” said PNP spokesman Brigadier Gen. Bernard M. Banac in a statement.
“In the conduct of investigation on crime incidents, the PNP strictly adheres to all procedures which are covered by the Rules on Evidence and the Data Privacy Law mandating the protection of identities while the investigation is pending.
“Once the case is filed with the prosecutor, the police is at no liberty to disclose any and all details without clearance from the assigned prosecutor,” the PNP spokesperson added.
Banac likewise maintained that being an independent body, they always welcome any CHR investigation and will fully cooperate with it.
“The CHR is free to conduct its own investigation and accordingly, to develop and procure its own evidence. This is independent and separate from the standard protocols of the Philippine National Police,” he said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque likewise denied the CHR claim that President Rodrigo Duterte is stalling its investigation into the killing of 89 activists and rights defenders.
“There is no truth to the alleged report that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte instructed the Philippine National Police (PNP) not to release or share their information to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) regarding the recent attacks against right defenders and activists,” Roque said in a statement.
Last Friday, CHR Commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento told an interview that “there is an order from the President himself not to give the Commission on Human Rights the data.”
With this, Roque said that Duterte, “as an officer of the court, being a lawyer,” adheres to the rule of law and he wants the wheels of justice to grind, for the sake of the victims of abuse and violence and their families.
“The Administration is equally interested to unmask those behind these brazen killings, which are being blamed to state agents, and we will leave no stone unturned to put these people behind bars,” the Palace official said amid a statement by the CHR that it is investigating the killings of about 89 activists and rights defenders from 2017 to 2019.
They include the killing of National Democratic Front peace consultant Randall ‘Randy’ Echanis in Quezon City last August 10.
‘FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST’ QUESTIONED
Q.C. Police District investigators said they are doing their best to find out the truth behind the killing of the 71-year old Echanis and his housemate Louie Tagapia although they cautioned everybody to wait for the result of the probe before coming up with conclusions that the killing was done by security forces.
They particularly referred to claims by militant groups that Echanis was “tortured to death” by his assailants, citing a report from Dr. Raquel Fortun who has been portrayed by the CHR , the Public Attorney’s Office and other groups as a “forensic pathologist.”
Fortun even lamented the lack of exhaustive crime scene investigation and physical evidence that could have helped her forensic analysis.
However, officials said that Dr. Fortun’s “competency to render an expert opinion as contained in her Forensic Case Review has been put into question after Judge Acerey Pacheco of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 265 last July 23 dismissed the criminal charges filed against four members of the former PNP Traffic Management Group accused of killing three young men in a controversial shootout in Ortigas Center on November 27, 2005. The court ruled that Dr. Fortun’s finding “cannot be received in evidence” since she is not a Certified Forensic Pathologist.
The court noted that Fortun, during direct examination testified she was not able to complete the requirement for the examination as a Forensic Pathologist in the U.S. and thus, did not take the Forensic Pathology board exam in the same country.
It also gave weight to Fortun’s testimony that there is a ‘big difference’ between Pathology in general and Forensic Pathology in particular and that there is no recognized Philippine government body which gives examinations to be able to become a Certified Forensic Pathologist in the country.
The Pasig court said it was “hard pressed to afford Dr. Fortun the recognition of a Certified Forensic Pathologist and ruled that her ‘opinion, conclusion and evaluation’ rendered during the examination of the bodies of the three slain men ‘are obviously beyond her competence as a Pathologist’ unlike that of a Certified Forensic Pathologist, forensic chemist, crime scene investigator and forensic ballistician.’