Rights group urges Cascolan to work with CHR, NGOs instead of dismissing EJKs | Inquirer News

Rights group urges Cascolan to work with CHR, NGOs instead of dismissing EJKs

/ 12:31 AM September 09, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Human Rights Watch is urging the newly-installed chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan, to work with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and nongovernment organizations instead of dismissing the issue of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the drug war.

Phil Robertson, Asia director of the New York-based international group, said statements made by Cascolan were just meant to “whitewash” the PNP’s reputation amid the often-criticized campaign against illegal drugs.

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Cascolan clarified in his first interview after becoming PNP chief that there was no such thing as EJKs because President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials did not sponsor state killings outside of legitimate police operations.

“New Philippines police chief General Camilo Cascolan’s outright denial that extrajudicial killings took place in the government’s ‘drug war’ is a blatant attempt to whitewash the sordid record of the PNP.  Respected human rights groups and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have comprehensively documented these EJKs since the start of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’,” Robertson said.

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“Instead of burying his head in the sand in this cynical and self-interested attempt to evade accountability, Cascolan should ensure that the PNP fully cooperates with investigating bodies such as the Commission on Human Rights, human rights NGOs, as well as international mechanisms such as the OHCHR,” he added.

Duterte’s drug war has drawn local and international condemnation for being bloody, with over 5,600 killed during authorized anti-drug operations.

In June alone, the United Nations Human Rights Council said that there was “near impunity” in the Philippines, urging the administration to end Oplan Tokhang, the PNP’s prime anti-drug program.

“Tokhang” is a contraction of Cebuano words “toktok,” or to knock, and “hangyo,” or to plead.

While it started as a door-to-door survey of people suspected of being involved in the illegal drug trade, it gained a negative connotation due to alleged extrajudicial killings.

One well-known controversial drug war incident involving police officers was the killing in a 2017 operation of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos. During that operation, Delos Santos supposedly pleaded to the officers that he was set to take his exams the next day, but he was shot dead.

In 2018, the Caloocan City Regional Trial Court found three police officers guilty of murdering Delos Santos.

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Cascolan has said that any report of EJKs can be brought to him for investigation. He also urged people with information on EJK cases to come out and file complaints.

At the same time, he insisted that there were no EJKs during police operations as evidenced by police officers also dying during those operations.

But HRW said that Cascolan should listen to various EJK allegations and testimonies of relatives of those killed in the drug war.

“Numerous victims, their families, and witnesses have repeatedly pointed out police misconduct during drug raids where police not only illegally killed suspects but manufactured and planted bogus evidence, such as guns, to claim that victims were armed when they were killed,” Robertson said.

“If the PNP has nothing to hide, it should welcome those who want to ferret out the truth in the ‘drug war’,” he added.

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TAGS: Camilo Cascolan, CHR, drug killings, Drug war, EJKs, HRW, Human Rights Watch, NGOs, Phil Robertson, Rodrigo Duterte
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