Philippines Senator Defends Death of 3-year-old Girl in Duterte's Violent Drug War: 'S**t Happens'

Philippines Senator Ronald dela Rosa, the former police chief responsible for running President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drugs, has dismissed the death of a toddler during a police raid as "shit happens," prompting a backlash from opposition politicians.

A three-year-old girl called Myka Upina died on Sunday in crossfire during a drugs raid by armed police in Rodriguez, Rizal, ABS-CBN reported. Ulpina's father Renato also died in the shootout. Police reportedly accused him of using the girl as a shield, which her mother denied. An undercover officer involved in the sting operation was killed too.

The raid took place under Duterte's violent crackdown on illicit drugs, in which he has encouraged thousands of extrajudicial killings by the authorities and armed vigilantes. Human rights groups and the Philippines Catholic church have both accused him of widespread abuses.

"We are living in an imperfect world," dela Rosa told a news conference, Reuters reported, when asked about the little girl's death. "Would a police officer want to shoot a child? Never, because they have children as well. But shit happens during operations."

The comments by dela Rosa, a staunch ally and friend of Duterte's who was elected in 2019 after committing to bringing back the death penalty, sparked condemnation.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who is also a former police chief, said the girl's death must be "taken seriously." He hit out at the "nonchalance" of dela Rosa, Rappler reported.

"One innocent life lost is one life too many. It is not every day that an innocent civilian, much less a 3-year-old child, is caught in the crossfire between law enforcement and criminal elements," Lacson said.

"Incidents like this should be taken seriously so that corrective measures will be put in place immediately and those responsible must at least be investigated to determine possible lapses or lack of discretion. Nonchalance has no place in this situation."

Senator Risa Hontiveros also criticized dela Rosa, tweeting: "Shit happens? Then it's time to call a plumber & flush this bloody & abusive drug war down the toilet."

Human Rights Watch, citing incomplete data from the Philippines government, said as many as 28,000 deaths could be attributed to Duterte's war on drugs, the large majority of which are homicides still under investigation.

In June, the rights group highlighted recently the children who are collateral damage in Duterte's drugs war, such as the latest toddler to die.

"No child should experience the loss of a parent or other family member to extrajudicial killings or witness such horrific violence at the hands of police or hitmen," said Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher at Human Rights Watch at the time.

"The toll of the Philippines' 'drug war' does not end with the killing of a drug suspect, but may extend to their children, often completely destroying families."

Philippines Duterte drugs war toddler killed
A relative lights a candle next to the coffin of three-year-old Myka Ulpina at her funeral wake on July 5, 2019 in Rodriguez, Rizal province, Philippines. Ezra Acayan/Getty Images