Philippines senator defends police over toddler’s death in drug raid: ‘S--- happens’

A Philippines senator -- who served as police chief during the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s notorious drug war -- has been criticized for dismissing the death of a toddler during a police raid by saying “s--- happens.”

Ronald Dela Rosa, who won a Senate seat two months ago, made the comments Thursday while defending a sting operation in Rodriguez town in Rizal province, east of Manila, last week.

“We are living in an imperfect world,” he said. “Would a police officer want to shoot a child? Never, because they have children as well. But s--- happens during operations.”

Dela Rosa, who was police chief during the first 21 months of Duterte’s presidency, added that the dead 3-year-old girl, named Myka Ulpina, had been used as a human shield by her father, a suspected drug dealer. Her father was shot dead along with another civilian and a police officer.

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In this Mach 17, 2019, file photo, a relative of a victim in President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called war on drugs reacts during a church service in Manila, Philippines. On Thursday, July 4, 2019, the Commission on Human Rights has condemned the killing of a three-year-old girl in a crossfire in a Philippine police raid in which her father, a drug suspect, was gunned down along with another civilian and a police officer.

In this Mach 17, 2019, file photo, a relative of a victim in President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called war on drugs reacts during a church service in Manila, Philippines. On Thursday, July 4, 2019, the Commission on Human Rights has condemned the killing of a three-year-old girl in a crossfire in a Philippine police raid in which her father, a drug suspect, was gunned down along with another civilian and a police officer. (AP)

A police spokesman, Bernard Banac, also defended the actions during the raid, saying the girl’s father had drawn a gun on officers first.

“It cannot be helped if there was an accident,” Banac said. “He used his daughter as a human shield.”

Police said the drug suspect, Renato Dolorfina, grew suspicious of an undercover police officer who was buying prohibited drugs from him. He got a gun from his house and shot the officer, sparking a firefight which left Dolorfina, his daughter, his companion and the officer dead.

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News reports, however, quoted Dolorfina's wife as denying the police report and saying they were sleeping when police barged into their house and opened fire.

Some 20 police officers have been suspended amid an investigation.

In this March 17, 2019, file photo, relatives of victims in President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called war on drugs hold a memorial for their loved ones at a church in Manila, Philippines.

In this March 17, 2019, file photo, relatives of victims in President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called war on drugs hold a memorial for their loved ones at a church in Manila, Philippines. (AP)

Human Rights Watch said of Dela Rosa’s comments: “It is unfortunate that…Dela Rosa, the first chief enforcer of Duterte’s ‘drug war’ that has killed thousands, would display such uncaring, even contemptuous attitude to [the victim] and, by extension, the dozens of other children killed in the brutal campaign.”

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Jacqueline Ann De Guia, a spokeswoman for The Philippine Commission on Human Rights, said: “Myka Ulpina’s life was cut short in the hands of those who swore to protect it.’

She added that the group “condemns the death of another innocent life as a consequence of the government’s war against illegal drugs”.

More than 6,600 suspects, mostly petty drug dealers and users, have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in mid-2016 and expanded a brutal anti-drug campaign that started when he was a southern city mayor.