Lawmaker to peers: Do duty, denounce killings
Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza yesterday challenged his fellow members of the House of Representatives to speak up against the extrajudicial killings in President Duterte’s merciless war on drugs or resign.
“We [in Buhay party-list] are denouncing extrajudicial killings. Every life is valuable. We stand very solidly on the propagation of the culture of life, of valuing life; and never on the culture of death and execution of anyone without due process,” Atienza told reporters at a news forum in Quezon City.
Atienza stressed that since members of the House have been elected by the people, it is their duty to “speak up” whenever a wrong is committed, no matter that the campaign against illegal drugs has the blessing of the President.
“If we don’t speak up, we might as well resign. We should speak up to help the national leadership shape up to be a more effective bureaucracy. We can’t just swallow it even if we know it’s wrong. What’s wrong is wrong, whether or not it’s an initiative of President Duterte,” he said.
The Inquirer’s Kill List showed that as of Thursday noon, 524 alleged drug suspects have been killed since Mr. Duterte’s inauguration on June 30.
Another 200 suspects have also been reported killed by vigilantes and unknown gunmen.
With the staggering number of deaths just five weeks into the Duterte administration’s campaign against drugs, Atienza warned that there may come a day that violence will become “acceptable” in Philippine society because the Filipinos have become “desensitized.”
“After a while, the sight of blood and death will be common to us. We will deteriorate into a society where violence reigns and killings are accepted, if these things are allowed to happen. The President should take note of that,” he said.
If the campaign’s “wrong direction” is not corrected, “our dreams of a prosperous Philippines will fail,” he said.
He added that Mr. Duterte should “take better control” of the situation for the government to keep the people’s support of the campaign.
Atienza also slammed the Philippine National Police for its apparent bias against poor drug suspects, who, he said, are immediately killed, while high-profile suspects like Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. are given a chance to defend themselves.
In fact, he pointed out, the PNP chief, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, has accommodated Espinosa in his house inside Camp Crame.
Atienza also said he supported Sen. Leila de Lima’s upcoming investigation into the extrajudicial killings, adding that he will push for a similar investigation by the House.
He said he believed that with both houses of Congress looking into the killings, the truth would eventually come out and better law-enforcement rules could be legislated.
Asked if he had support for his proposal in the House, Atienza said “many are interested” in the party-list bloc, but he gave no specifics.
Atienza also rejected a police investigation of policemen, stressing that he does not believe the PNP will be able to come up with an “accurate [finding]” against its own personnel.
The former mayor of Manila said he supported the President’s campaign against illegal drugs, but he believed the problem could be dealt with through other ways, such as providing employment opportunities and ensuring that the economy worked for everyone.
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