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Fear stalks kin of drug war victims

CHR official in Calabarzon says relatives won’t pursue cases due to threats
Fear stalks kin of drug war victims

DRUG HAUL An agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency inspects the packs of “shabu” (crystal meth) seized in a drug bust in Tanza, Cavite, early this month. —RICHARD REYES

LUCENA CITY—Relatives of suspects who died in the government’s war on drugs in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region have not been pursuing cases out of fear for their lives, an official of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said.

Lawyer Rexford Guevarra, CHR regional director, described this situation as appalling, noting that only one complainant sought CHR’s assistance last week.

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He said some families who filed complaints against those who they suspected to be behind the killings, among them policemen and government narcotics agents, had received threats to withdraw the charges.

Drug deaths

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The CHR recorded at least 368 drug-related deaths in the region from 2016 to Jan. 15 this year.

Laguna leads the provinces with the most number of cases at 139. It was followed by Cavite with 77, Batangas, 56, Quezon, 50, and Rizal, 46.

Records showed that 279 died in antidrug operations conducted by the police. Suspects in 24 of these cases had yet to be identified, the CHR said.

But police reports from Jan. 15 to Feb. 18 this year showed that at least 21 more suspected drug users and traders, including two Chinese, were killed in the government’s drug war.

During this period, Laguna recorded 11 victims, while Quezon had four and Batangas and Cavite, three each.

On Feb. 3, Vincent Du Lim and Hong Li Wen, both Chinese, were killed in a drug bust conducted by government agents at a suspected “shabu” (crystal meth) warehouse in Tanza town, Cavite.

‘Nanlaban’

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Police reports had described most of the slain suspects as “nanlaban,” or those who fought back and engaged policemen in gunfights.

CHR data showed that 32 suspects were killed in the drug war in 2016, when President Duterte assumed office. The figure reached 61 in 2017 and rose to 263 in 2018.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency reported that 5,104 had died in antidrug operations from July 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2018, nationwide, but human rights groups disputed the figure, saying the death toll was higher.

In Quezon, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ provincial chapter earlier offered legal assistance to families of drug war victims who wanted to pursue cases against the police.

But lawyer Rodolfo Zabella Jr., IBP chapter president in the province, said no one had sought help from their group.

Losing interest

Most families of the more than 40 drug war victims in Lucena City were no longer interested in filing complaints out of fear of possible retaliation from the suspects.

“Only those few killings reported in the media had been resolved after their killers were punished. The death of my relative was just part of the growing list of victims of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration,” said an uncle of one of the victims.

“Honestly, we’re all afraid of the possible retaliation by the killers. We just leave everything to God,” he added.

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TAGS: drug killings, EJKs, extrajudicial killings, war on drugs
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