‘Denying int’l probe into Duterte drug war is denying people of truth’ — CHR
MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration should not reject the initiated independent investigation of the United Nations (UN) body into drug-related killings as this could be “denying the people from the truth,” an official from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said.
“When you deny investigations such as this, ang problem natin is you deny people of the truth… when the government doesn’t also show willingness to be investigated and to be open about their data ultimately… ang apektado is our capacity to deliver justice din e,” Marc Siapno, officer-in-charge of CHR, told INQUIRER.net in an interview.
After almost three years since President Rodrigo Duterte began his bloody war on drugs, most cases of drug-related deaths are still uninvestigated.
According to CHR, they have investigated 1,705 cases of drug-related killings from May 10, 2019 until May 2019. Of the 1,705 cases, 1,023 are from police operations and 679 are from vigilante killings.
Siapno said if the UN body will not be allowed to investigate the deaths, the CHR will have struggles in appealing to the government on creating an independent probe.
“At the end of the day, if the UN cannot do an objective and impartial investigation, just imagine the struggles of CHR in terms of asking the government to be investigated as an independent human rights institution in the Philippines,” Siapno said.
Siapno lamented that the CHR is having difficulty investigating drug-related killings as the agency also conducts jail visitations and human rights training.
He added that the commission also looks into eviction issues, red-tagging cases, and other alleged human rights violations in the country.
On July 11, 18 out of 47 countries adopted the Iceland-backed resolution that prompted the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to conduct deepened investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines, including the drug-related killings.
The Iceland resolution, on behalf of more than two dozen nations, formally appealed to High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to prepare and present a “comprehensive report” on the state of human rights in the Philippines.
The draft resolution urged the Philippine government to “take all necessary measures to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances” and to conduct “impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable in accordance with international norms and standards including due process and the rule of law.”
Aside from the Iceland resolution, a statement from UN rapporteurs was issued to ask the UNHRC to conduct an independent investigation into the alleged unlawful deaths in President Duterte’s crackdown against illegal drugs.
Malacañang, however, dismissed the adoption of resolution, saying it was interfering with the sovereignty of the country.
“Any attempt therefore by any foreign country to interfere with how this government maintains its peace and order, not only is an affront to their intellect but an interference with the country’s sovereignty as well,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Duterte, who has been hitting back at the UN, also took a swipe at “ice-eating” Iceland for filing the resolution that would scrutinize the government’s bloody drug war.
“What is the problem of Iceland?—Ice only. That is your problem. You have too much ice and there is no clear day and night there,” Duterte said in a speech on July 12.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), composed of experts investigating human rights abuses, said the UN body must ensure that extrajudicial killings in the Philippines must be investigated, saying that it is already “long overdue.”
“A probe into extrajudicial killings and other violations in the Philippines is long overdue – it is incumbent on Council members and observers to work together at the upcoming 41st session to ensure an investigation is finally put in place,” HRW deputy director Laila Matar said in a statement on June 9.
Matar said a report submitted to Bachelet showed that of the 27,000 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings, only one case was subjected for investigation and prosecution.
Philippine National Police (PNP) disproved the report, noting that the number of drug-related killings was “bloated” and “not consistent with the truth.”
Official data from Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency showed that 5,526 drug suspects were killed in anti-drug operations nationwide from July 2016 to June 2019.
But for Siapno, if the PNP contests the statistics from UN, an independent investigation could prove the correct number of cases on drug-related deaths.
“The media or the public discourse is not the correct avenue to assert all of these facts and figures, so if it is bloated then what is the correct number?” Siapno said.
“If you assert that is a correct figure and people have a documentation of a higher number then let’s put it into a test let’s investigate it because it is the only way to know the truth,” he added.
Siapno also lamented that they still have not received documents on the drug war deaths from the PNP necessary to conduct an investigation into the said deaths.
“We still have a pending letter before PNP that request for case folders. Ang sabi namin the intention to request the case folders are not really to find fault but, in the interest of truth, help investigate in what happened in these cases,” Siapno said.
Siapno added that the documents could help the PNP get a clear picture of the circumstances which led to a suspect’s death during police operations.
In 2017, CHR Chairman Chito Gascon coordinated with then PNP chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa to turn over case folders of the war on drugs and deaths involving policemen that are under investigation.
Drug war targets poor
Siapno said they have yet to conclude if the drug war targets the poor, but so far their investigators claimed that victims of the anti-drug campaign belong to low-income families.
“On the part of our investigators, most of them say the cases we are able to investigate, that they [drug war victims] belong to low income families,” Siapno said.
He added that some families do not have enough money to arrange a proper burial for their loved ones.
In a database prepared by Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, and University of the Philippines, more than 7,000 drug suspects, mostly composed of poor and male breadwinners from Metro Manila, have been killed within the three-year drug war.
Siapno said most news reports showed that small-time drug peddlers were mostly caught by law enforcers but progress has yet to be made in catching powerful drug lords.
“We have yet to see progress dun sa when it comes to apprehending the big fishes that really deal with cartels and large scale manufacturers,” Siapno said.
Continue drug war
Senator and former PNP chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, however, stressed that the Duterte administration’s war on drugs must be continued as children in the streets could be affected by drugs.
“Tuloy tuloy pa rin [ang drug war]; ano ang gusto mo, hinto tayo? Ano mangyayari sa atin? Gusto mo maging zombie yung mga kabataan diyang naglalakad sa kalsada? Kailangan tuloy ang laban,” Dela Rosa said in an ambush interview in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Dela Rosa said the PNP vowed to minimize the proliferation of drugs from drug syndicates.
“The PNP has realized its aspirations na talagang itong drug war na ito is maminimize yung sumasakay na sindikato na kung saan pati yung hindi karapat dapat masubject sa ganitong operation ay ginawan nila ng kalokohan,” Dela Rosa said.
It was under Dela Rosa’s stint as PNP chief from July 2016 to April 2018 when he led Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign. /je
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