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Academics say stop the drug killings, create truth commission

FREE TUITION BILL / AUGUST 4, 2017 Oblation statue is silhouetted at University of the Philippines, Quezon City as President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the bill granting full government subsidy of tuition fee in state universities and colleges (SUCs). INQUIRER PHOTO / NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

Members of the academe around the country have called for the creation of a “Truth Commission” to investigate the deaths of thousands in President Duterte’s war on drugs and give justice to the victims of wrongful killings.

In a statement published on the website of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law this week, over 100 professors, instructors and scholars demanded a stop to the “chain of killings” under the Duterte administration.

“We call for the creation of an independent and credible Truth Commission with the power to subpoena witnesses [and] grant testimonial immunities to encourage key witnesses to step forward,” the statement said.

It said the commission shall also have the power to “accredit persons or private institutions to give sanctuary to victims, their families and witnesses.”

The Philippine National Police has admitted that officers have killed more than 3,800 suspected drug users and pushers in their anti-illegal drugs operations since last year. Thousands more have been killed by vigilantes suspected to be working with the authorities.

Right to effective remedy

“What is at stake is not just the constitutional right of persons against being ‘arbitrarily deprived of life.’ Equally at stake is the right ‘to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the Constitution or by law,’” the statement said.

“The chain of killings must stop,” it said. “The killers and masterminds must be brought to justice and impunity must end.”

Despite the thousands killed, including children, only two criminal cases have been filed in the courts, the statement said.

Saying they were nonpartisan, nonpolitical and independent, the educators reminded the President of his oath to “preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man” and urged him to demonstrate that his government was willing to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

“We call the President to desist from making statements that may be construed as encouraging the government’s armed personnel to shoot or kill, whether with the promise of pardon or immunity, the prospect of reinstatement or promotion, or outright cash awards,” the statement said.

The signatories include former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Solita Monsod and other professors from UP, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Far Eastern University, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Miriam College, Adamson University, University of San Carlos, Visayas State University, University of San Jose Recolletos and Silliman University. /je

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