• Last month, three-year-old Kateleen Myca Ulpina was shot and killed by police during a drug bust as part of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drugs.
  • Ronald Dela Rosa, a Filipino senator who previously as the country's national police chief, responded to the incident and said "shit happens" during police operations. He later apologized on local television for his statement.
  • Rights groups have criticized Duterte's bloody drug crackdown that has left thousands dead and say police forces are carrying out extrajudicial killings.
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A Filipino senator apologized on Monday after responding to the death of a three-year-old girl shot during a drug raid by saying "shit happens."

Ronald Dela Rosa formerly served as the Philippines National Police Chief and Director-General of the Bureau of Corrections.

Dela Rosa has been at the helm of President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drugs , which rights groups say has led to the deaths of thousands of people since he took office in 2016.

Last month, three-year-old Kateleen Myca Ulpina was shot and killed by police during a drug bust in the province of Rizal, near the country's capital of Manila.

According to police , Ulpina's father Renato was targeted in the operation and used Kateleen as a human shield during a shootout with police, an allegation that the family has rejected.

"We are living in an imperfect world," Dela Rosa, now a senator, said last week in response to the incident.

"Would a police officer want to shoot a child? Never, because they have children as well. But shit happens during operations."

Dela Rosa added that "collateral damage" during a sting operation was inevitable.

Ronald Dela Rosa
Ronald Dela Rosa
Screenshot/ABS-CBN News

Filipino lawmakers broadly condemned his comments, saying: "One innocent life lost is one life too many."

Dela Rosa apologized for his comments on Monday, admitting that he had made "the wrong choice of words."

"I apologize to the family for [my comment]. It was wrong, I should not have said that. Those words should only be for the police community, not for the public because these were prone to being given a bad meaning," he said during an interview on local television .

"It's wrong for me to say 'shit happens,' but that's true in police operations."

He added that he would lead an investigation into the killing once he becomes chairman of the Philippines Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.

Rights group says Duterte's war on drugs is a "large scale murdering enterprise"

duterte drug war
duterte drug war
Jes Aznar/Getty Images

Dela Rosa has previously called Duterte's drug war a "success," though several rights groups and observers have urged the international community to investigate extrajudicial killings carried out during the bloody campaign.

In a new report released on Monday, Amnesty International referred to the war on drugs as a "large scale murdering enterprise" and called on the United Nations to investigate allegations of human rights violations.

"Three years on, President Duterte's 'war on drugs' continues to be nothing but a large-scale murdering enterprise for which the poor continue to pay the highest price," Amnesty International's Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia Nicholas Bequelin said.

"The deliberate and systematic nature of the killings, which appear to have been conducted as part of a government-orchestrated attack against poor people suspected of using or selling drugs, is why Amnesty International has repeatedly said that they may amount to crimes against humanity," the report said.

Read more: The body count of mayors in the Philippines is going up as Duterte's drug war rages on

Philippine police chief Oscar Albayalde on Tuesday accused Amnesty International of "politicizing" the deaths of those killed and dismissed calls for international bodies to investigate unlawful killings.

"Allegations of killings have never been proven," he said. "All our anti-illegal drugs operations continue to be conducted within the bounds of the law with utmost respect for human rights."

Local and international calls to investigate the killing of thousands of Filipinos by police units since Duterte took office have heightened in recent months. Duterte previously told police and armed forces not to cooperate with any probes against his bloody war on drugs.

Official estimates put the death toll from Duterte's drug war at 4,948, though rights groups estimate the actual number could be over 20,000 .

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