After CHR’s ‘intent to kill’ report, Bayan Muna wants truth commission to probe Duterte in 2022
MANILA, Philippines — A party-list coalition has raised the possibility of a tribunal conducting an independent investigation into the drug war following a Commission on Human Rights (CHR) report which revealed that the police had an ‘intent to kill’ in their operations.
According to Bayan Muna, this autonomous legal body will be created after President Duterte has left office in 2022 when he will no longer be protected from criminal liability.
The group has been largely skeptical of the Duterte administration’s anti-drug drive, and it fully supports the CHR’s investigation of thousands of victims’ deaths.
“There must be an independent tribunal, similar to the Truth Commission created in South Africa to investigate the atrocities during the apartheid regime,” former lawmaker and Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares said in a statement.
“This tribunal must be clothed with powers to investigate these human rights violations under President Duterte and ensure that they are punished for their crimes,” Colmenares added.
Reports came out on Thursday showing the Philippine National Police was one of the main implementers of the drug war and that its operations were heavy-handed and designed to end in the death of drug suspects.
CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel Gana told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that between May 2016 and March 2021, the CHR investigated about 3,300 claims of EJKs in Metro Manila, Central and Southern Luzon, resulting from both legitimate police operations and vigilante-style killings.
“It’s a good sample of the kind of cases … and it could give a good picture of what could happen, the same kind of modus operandi,” she said, adding that almost all the cases showed “several circumstances and evidence that showed possible abuse of strength and intent to kill.”
According to Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, CHR’s initiative is a good start because justice is essential if the government wants to achieve peace.
“We strongly support the CHR’s move. There must be justice for the victims who were defenseless and yet mercilessly killed in Pres. Duterte’s bloody campaign against drugs. There will be no peace without justice in our country,” Zarate said.
On the other hand, Colmenares claimed that the next administration would face a slew of problems, including alleged impunity within state forces and law enforcement agencies.
“The new administration after President Duterte is gone in 2022 must once and for all address the continuing impunity of the police and the military by ensuring that those who committed these crimes are punished. Without justice and accountability, extrajudicial killings will continue,” Colmenares said.
The CHR report, which has yet to be published, has elicited varying reactions: Senator Ronald dela Rosa, an administration ally, said that CHR must file charges against the police officers involved in the EJK accusations because it could be seen as “black propaganda.”
Dela Rosa, the former Davao police chief and Duterte’s first hand-picked PNP chief, introduced Oplan Tokhang during the administration’s early years. Tokhang is a combination of the words “toktok,” which means “to knock,” and “hangyo,” which means “to plead,” which Dela Rosa coined.
Tokhang mostly consists of knocking on the doors of alleged drug users and people accused of being involved in the drug trade, but it has also been connected by critics to the killing of people who might resist arrest, leading former drug czar and Vice President Leni Robredo to demand that Oplan Tokhang be scrapped.
Malacañang also urged CHR to gather pieces of evidence and file complaints.
Colmenares, one of the lawyers who assisted in preparing Duterte’s crimes against humanity lawsuit before the International Criminal Court (ICC), urged CHR to disclose the report’s specifics as soon as possible that they can be included in the supplementary proof that they will file.
“We ask the CHR to release its report soonest so that we can submit this together with the supplemental pleading that we will file with the International Criminal Court (ICC) this April,” Colmenares said.
“We hope to file this last supplemental pleading and evidence before the ICC decides in the criminal case against President Duterte,” he added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.