Whether it’s PDEA or PNP, impunity still worries CHR
Whether it’s the Philippine National Police (PNP) or the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) at the lead of the government’s war on drugs, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) continues to remain concerned about the lack of accountability for the killings.
This was stressed by CHR chair Jose Luis Martin Gascon in a press conference on Friday on the second day of the “Pagtugon sa Hamon” human rights and rule of law summit organized by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines at the Bonifacio Global City.
Asked for a reaction to the PNP retaking the lead in the campaign against illegal drugs, Gascon said “our cause of concern is primarily the sense of impunity that has pervaded the country where violations occur and no one is held to account.”
“In the last 18 months in the course of the administration’s war on drugs, we have monitored violations and have called this out,” Gascon said.
But “we are concerned that there are no major results from investigations that have been conducted. How many charges have been filed in court by the prosecutors’ office? Then the statements of the President encourage violence. All of these taken together present a grave situation that we hope will be addressed,” Gascon told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.
As of the government’s own count, there have already been 3,967 “drug personalities who died in antidrug operations” in a little more than a year or from July 1, 2016, to Oct. 25, 2017, alone.
Human rights advocates, however, peg the number of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration at around 13,000, taking into account what the police have come to term “deaths under investigation” or drug-related killings perpetrated supposedly by vigilantes.
Meanwhile, the CHR documented 946 cases of alleged drug-related extrajudicial killings with 1,151 victims when the drug war was still under the police from May 2016 to October 2017.
Gascon noted that the CHR’s previous requests for the police’s cooperation in their investigations into the killings, such as the CHR’s request for the PNP to turn over case folders of all cases of deaths arising from the war on drugs, remain unaddressed.
PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa earlier acceded to the request, during a dialogue with Gascon, but was prohibited by no less than President Duterte from turning over the case files.
Cause for alarm
But “whether it is the police or any other law enforcement agency that will pursue these efforts of the war on drugs of the administration, we will just continue to do our part as we expect them to do their part in terms of assisting us in ensuring that the public is reassured that no cases of human rights violations are occurring,” the CHR chair added.
However, for human rights advocate In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend), the PNP’s lead in the drug war was a cause for alarm.
Rose Trajano, iDefend convenor, pointed out that the extrajudicial killings “remained the same” when the drug war was under the PDEA.
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