The Philippine National Police (PNP) has temporarily relieved 19 police officers and the chief of police of Rodriguez, Rizal in connection with the death of 3-year-old Kateleen Myka Ulpina during a buy-bust operation.
Brig. Gen. Edward Carranza, the PNP Calabarzon police director, said today that this was done in order to make way for an impartial investigation into Myka’s killing, reported The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Aside from being dismissed from their posts, all officers were told to surrender their firearms for a ballistics test to determine who among them shot Myka.
Myka died on Sunday, a day after she was caught in a crossfire in her own home between the police and her father Renato Dolofrina, a suspected drug dealer, and his unidentified associate. Rodriguez cops alleged that she was shot because Dolofrina used her as a “human shield” during the gunfight. However, Myka’s mother said there was no truth to this claim and that her child died due to a stray bullet, reported GMA News.
The mother said that she was in the house when the cops arrived but that she went upstairs with their other kids while Myka refused to leave her father.
Dolofrina, his accomplice, and Senior Master Sergeant Conrad Cabigao — the cop who posed as a buyer in the drug operation — were killed during the shootout. According to the police, the gunfight started when Dolofrina and his companion recognized that Cabigao was a police officer and shot him, reported SunStar Manila.
PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde said Myka’s death was “unfortunate,” but the police officers “had to retaliate” by shooting the drug suspects. Albayalde has also floated the possibility that Dolofrina was a hired gunman.
Following the incident, international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHR) to adopt a resolution that would lead the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report on the impact of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war in the country.
Last month, 11 UN human rights experts urged the UNHR to conduct an independent probe into Duterte’s drug war, which they said caused “a staggering number of unlawful deaths and police killings.” The Philippine government, in turn, said that the experts’ accusations were “biased” and “absolutely false.”
Duterte’s drug war is the subject of an ongoing International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation. The Philippines used to be a member of the ICC until Duterte unilaterally decided to withdraw in March last year due to what he said were the organization’s “baseless, unprecedented, and outrageous attacks” against him and his government in connection to the drug war launched in 2016. The Philippine government has vowed that they would block or deport ICC investigators from the country.
According to the latest PNP data, around 6,600 suspected drug personalities have been killed between July 2016, the start of Duterte’s term as president, and May 2o19. However, police reports have been contested by the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights which said as early as December that the number of fatalities could be as high as 27,000.