VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Interview clip confirms Acosta said there's a ‘pattern’ in spate of killings

Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta, in her emotional outburst during a Senate inquiry Sept. 5 on the killing of 17-year-old student Kian Delos Santos, inaccurately claimed she never said what she had actually said just two days prior.

The prelude to Acosta’s bursting into tears was a comment, made by Sen. Risa Hontiveros at around 2 hours and 42 minutes into the inquiry, the entire unedited video of which is posted in the official Senate Youtube account.

Hontiveros, addressing Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa about the spate of killings in anti-drug operations, mentioned PAO and said, “Paalala po sa ating lahat, kahit po yung PAO ay nakapagsabi na naging... it was a pattern (As a reminder to all of us, even the PAO said there’s a pattern).”

STATEMENT

Some ten minutes later, Acosta requested to be allowed to speak, and said:

Mawalang-galang na po kay Senator Risa Hontiveros, wala pong pronouncement ang PAO na may pattern dito (If you would excuse me, Senator Risa Hontiveros, there’s no pronouncement from the PAO that there is a pattern here).”

Source: Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs hearing, Sept. 5, watch from 2:53:41 to 2:53:48

The PAO Chief then proceeded to talk about the absence of a government-endorsed policy for the police to kill innocent people unless it is for self-defense.

PAO Chief Persida Acosta turns emotional during the Senate hearing. Screengrab from Senate Youtube video.

She added:

Ang sinasabi ko po, lilinawin ko lang Sir, kasi laging nababanggit ‘yung PAO ‘di naman ako nakakapagsalita. Yung similarity lang ng kaso ni Kian, saka ni Carl. Parehong teenager, parehong ang nanay OFW, parehong may munting tindahan sa kanilang harap ng tahanan, parehong maayos ang itsura at wala sa drug list ng barangay (What I am saying, I just want to clear this up, Sir, because PAO is always mentioned and I haven’t been given the chance to speak. The similarities of Kian’s and Carl’s cases are they’re both teenagers, their mothers are both OFWs, they both have small stores in front of their homes, they both look decent and are not on the drug list of the barangay).

Source: Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs hearing, Sept. 5, watch from 2:54:44 to 2:55:05

FACT

Responding to Acosta, Hontiveros quoted a Sept. 3 interview the PAO Chief had with DZMM.

What the senator read from a phone matches what Acosta said in DZMM, a video of which is uploaded online.

Talking about the Delos Santos case and more recently that of another teen Carl Angelo Arnaiz, Acosta did in fact say there was a pattern to the killings.

She mentioned the word “pattern” twice, the first time three minutes and 34 seconds into the interview, to point out that the killings were perpetrated in a matter of hours:

Ang punto dito, buhay ito eh. Bakit ganito ‘yung pattern? May pagkakahalintulad kay Kian at magkasunod po halos ito, 16, 17, 18. Halos magkasunod lang din po. Oras lang din ang pagitan niyan kung bibilangin dyan sa dalawang iyan (My point here is we’re talking about lives. Why is the pattern like this? There are similiarities with Kian’s death, 16, 17, 18. They were killed subsequently and in a matter of hours).”

Acosta said pattern again at around 7:24 of the video, when she talked about Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III’s condemnation of the spate of killings.

"Si Secretary Aguirre po concerned rin dito kay Carl at talagang nasabi niya rin po na kailangan masugpo yung mga ganitong gawain, dahil, pattern din po ‘iyan eh (Secretary Aguirre is concerned about Carl, and he said that these killings must be stopped, because that is also a pattern)."

Earlier in the interview, Acosta pointed out what she called “common denominators” between Delos Santos’ and Arnaiz’s cases: Both belong to the same age bracket, have mothers who work overseas, maintain sari-sari stores near their homes and were killed in Caloocan City.

Regarding Arnaiz, she said:

At ito, nagtataka kami, taga-Cainta, bakit doon nakita ang bangkay doon sa Caloocan (And we’re wondering why his body was found in Caloocan, when he lives in Cainta.)”

Acosta even offered information beyond the questions of radio program host Noli de Castro, such as the police’s claim the the CCTV camera in the area wasn’t operational at the time of Arnaiz’s death.

“So ang punto po doon, bakit kailangan bugbugin ‘tong bata ito? Tsaka barilin po ng ganito? Kung ito po ay suspected holdaper, edi sana pinosasan, dinala sa presinto, kinasuhan, in-inquest at may PAO naman tayo nag-iinquest duty magdamag? (The point here is why did they have to beat the child? And shoot him down? If he was indeed a suspected robber, they should have handcuffed him, brought him to jail, filed a case and let him undergo inquest proceedings).”

Toward the end of the interview, the PAO chief suggested that there be internal cleansing within police ranks, and called publicly to end the subsequent killings.

“Sana po matigil na ito, Kabayan. Nababahala na po ang ating mga kababayan doon sa mga ganitong sitwasyon, doon sa mga anak na teenager (I hope these killings stop, Kabayan. Citizens are alarmed by these situations, especially those with teenage children).”

Sources:

Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Hearing, September 5, 2017

ABS-CBN News. Another Kian? PAO slams ‘pattern’ in death of 2 teens. September 3, 2017

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative.)

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