Senators grill PNP officials on drug-related killings

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – Police officials on Thursday attended a Senate hearing to discuss the creation of a new anti-drug agency and the amendment of the Anti-wiretapping law – but Senators became more interested in drug-related killings.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa said there are 899 "deaths under investigation" from July 1 to August 15.

Sen. Grace Poe asked if these cases are vigilante-related killings – done by those who aren't law enforcement agents.

But dela Rosa said as yet, there's no evidence showing vigilantes are behind the murders.

"We cannot really attribute this to vigilante killing but they are found dead bodies under investigation," Dela Rosa said.

According to Dela Rosa, deaths under investigation are those found dead with unknown killers, mostly riding-in-tandem.

PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa admits he is bothered by the rising number of vigilante-style killings since the intensified anti-drug campaign of the government.

But the PNP says they are trying to resolve these cases.

Read: PNP: Still no leads in 'summary killings' probe

Dela Rosa said the PNP has filed 22 cases in Metro Manila in relation to vigilante-style killings.

Dela Rosa added they have discovered evidence from crime scenes – like bullets and slugs – that cross-matched with the gun recovered from an alleged hitman of a drug syndicate in Manila.

Dela Rosa also reported to Senators that the latest figures on drug suspects killed during legitimate police operations have reached 665.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros pointed out, the war on drugs must be shifted "from punishment to treatment."

Sen. Poe and Sen. Gregorio Honasan also said there was no excuse for the taking of human life through illegal, unlawful means.

Drug problem did not happen overnight

During the hearing, Honasan said the drug problem was an issue each administration had to face.

He pointed out, it was a problem that did not happen overnight – which PNP Chief dela Rosa agreed to.

"Hindi naman ito yung natulog tayo kagabi, tapos nagising tayo kanina, ngayong umaga, biglang meron na tayong drug problem," Honasan said. "Ito'y pinagsama-samang epekto ng mga napabayaan."

[Translation: It's not like we woke up from a night's sleep and we suddenly had a drug problem. All these are the results of problems that were overlooked.]

The senators also agreed that something must be done with regards to drug-related problems.

"We must assume responsibility for it," Honasan said.

For Sen. Richard Gordon, communities should be pro-active in solving the problem.

"Parents are accountable for their children," Gordon said. "Schools should have trained guidance counselors."

Meanwhile, Sen. Leila De Lima, who was the Aquino administration's Justice Secretary, defended the previous administration after Dela Rosa insinuated that it failed to address the illegal drug problem in the country.

De Lima asked dela Rosa: "Have you asked for the accomplishment reports?"

But dela Rosa was quick to respond-there's no more need to do such things.

"Why even dig those things? Dami kong problema," dela Rosa told De Lima. [Why even dig those things? I have a lot of problems already.]

Next week, De Lima is leading the Senate probe on the alleged extrajudicial killings these past few months.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.