Senator seeks probe of hostage-taking involving ex-senator

FORMER Senator Leila M. de Lima — OFFICE OF LEILA DE LIMA

A SENATOR has filed a resolution seeking to probe the recent hostage-taking of a former senator inside the Philippine police headquarters on Sunday.

“While our police officers demonstrated swift and decisive action during a crisis situation, the incident nonetheless reflects poorly on our police organization’s capacity to perform their mandate of preventing crimes, enforcing laws, maintaining public order and ensuring public safety,” Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada said in a statement on Thursday.

Senate Resolution 258, filed on October 12, seeks to prevent similar incidents inside detention facilities, he said.

Former Senator Leila M. de Lima, one of ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s fiercest critics, was taken hostage by one of three inmates who tried to escape jail near the Philippine capital on Sunday morning, police said.

Responding Special Action Forces shot and killed the inmates, who were suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, after negotiations failed, police said.

A police officer was rushed to the hospital after being stabbed during the escape attempt. Another cop on duty shot two of the culprits, while the third one entered Ms. De Lima’s cell inside the Camp Crame police headquarters in Quezon City and held her hostage.

Ms. De Lima, who is on trial for drug trafficking, was confined at a police hospital near the capital due to chest pain and hypertension. She was stable, national police chief General Rodolfo S. Azurin, Jr. told a news briefing on Wednesday.

Mr. Estrada said he was concerned about allegations of inmate maltreatment, as claimed by Ms. De Lima’s hostage-taker.

“We have many complaints about what is being done to us here, we are treated like animals and the food contains pork,” Ms. De Lima said in her affidavit, quoting her attacker who pressed a knife to her chest.  

“While I am still trying to recover psychologically and emotionally from this harrowing experience, I am sure of one thing that I learned from it — being so near death has only made me value life even more,” she earlier said in a statement.

Police have ordered an investigation of the incident and boosted security measures inside the complex including banning metal utensils and using a buddy system for police officers delivering food to inmates.

“The police organization should inspire confidence through the institutionalization of strict security protocols in PNP detention facilities, adequate training and capacity-building of its officers and personnel,” Mr. Estrada said.

Inmates should be treated humanely and their religious beliefs should be respected, he added.

In 2016, Ms. De Lima led a Senate probe into vigilante-style killings in Davao when Mr. Duterte was still mayor and vice mayor of the city. She was arrested a year later after allegations of her involvement in the illegal drug trade.

At least four witnesses have taken back their drug allegations against her. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan