Rights watchdog urges probe of cops in drug war killings
The Philippine government should form an independent commission to investigate the role of police officers in the killing of drug suspects, a New York-based human rights watchdog said on Tuesday.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the recent admission by a Philippine National Police official of the use of officers in drug war executions should compel the government to carry out measures to exact justice from people responsible for the killings.
‘Hit men most likely police’
“[President Rodrigo] Duterte has made it clear over and over again that he wants drug dealers and users killed so there is no reason to think these [killings] are rogue operations. It’s time for an independent commission to be created to officially identify those responsible and begin the process of accountability for mass murder,” said Brad Adams, HRW Asia director.
Adams cited the “public admission” on Oct. 31 by Chief Supt. Debold Dinas, Central Visayas police director, that some of the hit men in the killings were “most likely… retired military or police officers” or “active police officers.”
Dinas’ admission came on the heels of a series of killings in Cebu City and elsewhere in Central Visayas that “bore similarities” to the drug war murders that began after the President took office in June 2016, Adams said.
“The admission by a senior police official that police officers are working as hit men for drug syndicates is yet more evidence of Philippine government complicity in ‘drug war’ killings. Given the total failure of the police to stop these abuses, it’s clear that any serious investigation of the police role in the war on drugs needs full independence,” he said.
A proposed “commission of inquiry” should be independent from the PNP and the Office of the President, and its members should include investigators from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and representatives of private organizations with recognized expertise, Adams said.
But Malacañang rejected Adams’ suggestion, calling it a “reckless proposal” and another attempt to meddle in Philippine affairs.
HRW’s “inference from an interview of a lone police official cannot be a valid ground for such a reckless proposal. This is not new and is no different from those hurled by desperate critics of this administration since Day 1 of the President’s war against illegal drugs,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday.
Panelo said there were independent bodies that had looked into alleged government abuses, including the CHR, Congress and the PNP Internal Affairs Service.
“These, among other governmental bodies engaged in counterbalancing measures, are functioning,” Panelo said.
Planning and coordination
“We thus reiterate our position that we do not need schooling from outsiders on how to run the country,” he said.
HRW said its own investigation of the drug war killings showed the “pervasive involvement of police officers” who “routinely falsified evidence by planting weapons and illegal drugs on suspects’ bodies.”
The group noted the “similarity of tactics” used in the killings, which showed planning and coordination by the police and local civilian officials.
It said media organizations had also been able to show through investigative reports that police officers were involved in drug war killings, despite constant denials by Philippine authorities.
Despite the calls for accountability, not one police officer or government official has been convicted for any of the killings, the group said.
Instead, the Duterte administration has attacked critics of the drug war, it said.
“The government jailed an outspoken senator on spurious charges; falsely accused human rights groups of links to the drug trade; threatened journalists who report critically on the ‘drug war’; and, most recently, deported a longtime foreign resident for denouncing the government’s antidrug campaign,” it said. —With a report from Julie M. Aurelio
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