Vigilante killings alarm CHR, church execs
ILOILO CITY—The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the Western Visayas region and the Catholic Church have raised concerns over what appears to be cases of summary executions following the repeated threats of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte that he would order the killing of drug lords and criminals.
While it remains unclear as to who were behind the killings, the CHR fears that more vigilante-type killings will happen.
“Killing, even of criminal offenders, is a crime, unless [the death penalty] is legalized. Vigilantism will spur human rights violations even if the intentions could be well,” David Bermudo, the agency’s regional director, told the Inquirer.
Five men believed to be criminals or had records of criminal involvement had been shot and killed in different provinces in Negros and Western Visayas from Thursday to Saturday. Two in Iloilo City and Leganes town in Iloilo province were found with their hands tied.
Bermudo said due process should be given those suspected to be involved in crimes. “There should be presumption of innocence. But now, there appears to be presumption of guilt even if one is suspected of [committing] a crime,” he said.
Even those found guilty of committing any crime should not be killed, he added.
The CHR is also concerned about the rising criminality and wants an end to the proliferation of illegal drugs, Bermudo said. “But it should not be through [summary killings].”
Right to life
Msgr. Meliton Oso, social action director of the Archdioces of Jaro, said the killings “whether these are being done by people in government or vigilantes, violate the basic right of persons to life.”
These could have been encouraged by “what we have heard from the coming dispensation,” he said.
President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, during a speech in his thanksgiving party in Davao City, said he had raised the bounty for killing drug lords from P3 million to P5 million.
He said he would offer P2 million as a reward for every slain illegal drug “distributor” and P50,000 for small-time drug peddlers.
Duterte also urged citizens to arrest drug traffickers in their communities and shoot them if they resisted arrest and put people’s lives in danger.
Oso, who has been conducting teachings and interaction with prisoners, said he was sad that many seemed to approve of the summary killings of criminals.
“I also want to solve the illegal drug problem because of the harm that it has brought to our youth and society. But let it be done by the law [and with] due process,” he said.
“God does not wish the death of a sinful man. He wishes for their conversion,” Oso said, citing Biblical teachings.
Bermudo called on law enforcement agencies to investigate and resolve the killings. “We can only enforce the law in accordance with the law. It should not be through illegal [means],” he said.