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Apology for killings not enough – CHR, senators

Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s apology for the “unintentional” deaths of innocents in his bloody war on drugs, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Chito Gascon said the government should hold those responsible for the killings accountable. Chito Gascon Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines - Saying sorry is not enough.

Following President Duterte’s apology for the “unintentional” deaths of innocents in his bloody war on drugs, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Chito Gascon said the government should hold those responsible for the killings accountable.

“If the President is prepared to accept or concede that there have been persons wrongfully killed, and seriously wants to set things right to prevent its further occurrence, then a zero-tolerance policy for this must be pursued,” Gascon told The STAR yesterday.

“That President Duterte is feeling remorse for those killed unintentionally in his so-called ‘war on drugs’ should spur him to do more than just say sorry,” he added.

Duterte on Thursday said those who were unintentionally caught in crossfire could be considered as collateral damage in government’s efforts to curb the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country.

“I would admit there were killings that were really unintended, like the children who were caught in a crossfire. Collateral damage, and I’m sorry,” Duterte said during his interview with ABS-CBN.

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“There has to be a casualty and there has to be some drawbacks there.”

Duterte maintained security forces would have no criminal liability despite the death of innocents during legitimate anti-crime operations.

Gascon, however, said Duterte should stop shielding law enforcement personnel with a blanket acceptance of their justifications over the deaths.

He urged Duterte to allow independent bodies to check for violations of established police procedures and use of force protocols.

“The harm and injury of the families of those wrongfully killed must be immediately addressed,” Gascon said.

“A thorough independent investigation of every single case of death during police operations must be undertaken to determine levels of accountability to pierce the ‘nanlaban’ (resisting arrest) justification,” he added.

Lawmakers welcomed Duterte’s regret over the “unintended killings” in the course of his brutal war against illegal drugs.

They said, however, that Duterte should do more to stop extrajudicial killings.

Sen. Gringo Honasan said Duterte’s apology for the innocent victims in the campaign against illegal drugs showed he was not condoning extrajudicial killings.

“In all our hearings as well as meetings with law enforcement officials and the military officers, we have not heard of any order from the commander-in-chief (Duterte) telling them to go on a rampage,” Honasan said.

“He (Duterte) has condemned extrajudicial killings, we all have condemned extrajudicial killings, so we have to assume due process on the part of his administration and give him the benefit of the doubt,” he said.

Honasan said it was unfortunate the country has to undergo this “painful” process of fighting drugs with limited resources as previous governments did not do enough to prevent the scourge from spreading.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, however, said there must be some explanation with accompanying details as to what Duterte meant by “unintended killings.”

“Those killed as what he described as collateral damage in the drug war, especially those ‘in slippers,’ must be given at the very least some compensation and justice, at the most,” Lacson said.

He reiterated his call for the administration to form a composite team of seasoned investigators and intelligence operatives to deal with at least 4,000 vigilante killings.

Some 6,000 people have died in supposed drug-related incidents since Duterte assumed office on June 30.

More than 2,000 of those were killed in legitimate police operations, while suspected vigilante groups killed over 4,000.

“Otherwise, they cannot expect to disabuse the thinking that most of those killings were either state inspired or at worst, state sanctioned or sponsored,” Lacson said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros was not impressed by the apology, saying government’s supposed shift to the public health approach in its anti-drugs campaign should have come first in a comprehensive response against the drug menace.

“President Duterte should go beyond words and rhetoric. I believe the best apology he can give the people is for the government to put a stop to the extrajudicial killings,” Hontiveros said. 

“Ending the killings and holding all those responsible for these atrocities must be done alongside the implementation of a public health agenda on the anti-drugs campaign,” she said.

Failure to do so will fuel further speculations that the government not only condones the extrajudicial killings, but also sanctions them, to the detriment of the people’s health, Hontiveros said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he found it difficult to accept Duterte’s description of “unintended” referring to the innocents killed.

“When the police are encouraged to kill and even to lie and are assured that they will not go to jail despite findings of premeditated killings,” he said. – Paolo Romero


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