Senator Ronald de la Rosa’s personality, even before he was elected senator, has baffled me. Nicknamed “Bato” (stone) probably because of his big physique and broad shoulders, he projects an image of being tough. And probably he is. His toughness must have been the reason why he oversaw President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody crackdown on drugs until he retired.
I remember him testifying in a Senate hearing in the past where he appeared to be full of emotions, breaking down during the hearing as he vigorously proclaimed that there was no policy to kill innocent civilians in the government’s campaign against drugs.
In another Senate hearing sometime in 2017, Bato once again broke down in tears over the loss of public trust in the efforts of the police to fight illegal drugs as thousands of alleged drug users, majority of whom are poor, had been killed by the police.
Perhaps Bato has high emotional IQ that he can empathize with the poor victims of the war on drugs, now numbering around 5,000 since 2016 although the various estimates given by human rights groups vary from 12,000 to 20,000.
During those hearings, I gave Bato the benefit of the doubt that he was telling the truth. Emotions after all cannot lie. They generally reflect what a person really feels inside. Perhaps because of his background – Wikipedia describes Bato’s family as “dirt poor” and his father a tricycle driver – there’s probably a place in his heart for sympathy toward victims of crimes and police brutality who are mostly poor people.
But when Bato, now Senator dela Rosa, dismissed the recent killing of a three-year-old girl in a police drug operation as collateral damage, stating that “shit happens,” I was not only shocked but concluded that he does not have an understanding of the objectivity and the decency needed to serve not the police, but all Filipinos who expect him to be neutral, objective, and fair.
“We are living in an imperfect world,” Senator dela Rosa explained. “Would a police officer want to shoot a child? Never, because they have children as well. But shit happens during operations.”
Senator dela Rosa has yet to learn how to distance himself from Duterte and the police, when it comes to the war on drugs. True, he was supported by President Duterte when he ran as a senator. But he needs to realize that as a senator, his loyalty now belongs to the people and not to the administration or the police.
The girl’s mother disputed the version of the police that the father had used his daughter as a human shield. Senator de la Rosa should have asked instead, “Would a father want to use his daughter as a shield to protect his own life? Never, because a father would always sacrifice his life to save his own daughter.”
Senator dela Rosa eventually apologized in a TV interview attributing his mistake to his wrong choice of words: “I apologize to the family for the comment na nasabi ko … what I meant by the expression ‘shit happens,’ ibig ko sabihin non, siguro wrong choice of words lang ‘yung sa akin. But the expression was there. Dapat sinabi ko pala unfortunate incidents do happen (I apologize to the family for my comment. It was a case of wrong choice of words … I should have said, unfortunate incidents do happen).”
But his apology is too late. A 3-year-old innocent girl named Myka Ulpina is dead.
What Senator dela Rosa’s “shit happens” comment reflects is a mindset of the senator that makes it acceptable, as a policy, to kill anyone in the name of the war on drugs.
Bato-bato sa langit, pasensya na lang sa sino mang tatamaan.