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Independent probe urged on drug slays

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay made the call yesterday, saying the commission should be composed of retired justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals of proven probity. File

MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte has been urged to create an independent commission that will investigate the escalating number of summary killings related to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay made the call yesterday, saying the commission should be composed of retired justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals of proven probity.

“Police authorities cannot be entrusted with the investigation because police officers and personnel themselves are involved, while the leadership of the Department of Justice is a partisan ally of the President,” Lagman said.

“The inquiry must not be left to politicians whose motives could be suspect, despite their avowal of impartiality,” he added.

Lagman said the independent commission should be authorized to look into the causes, motives and the alleged rewards for the extrajudicial killings, and determine the total number of victims of summary killings committed both by the police authorities and vigilante groups since the start of the anti-drug campaign in 2016.

“The panel should determine whether there is collusion between the police and vigilantes, and inquire into how many of the victims belong to the poor, vulnerable and marginalized sectors,” he added.

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Lagman said there are a number of precedents where fact-finding commissions were created to investigate important events such as the Agrava Commission, Feliciano Commission and Melo Commission.

Bishop slams killings

Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David denounced the recent spike in the killings related to the government’s anti-drug war.

“I don’t know of a law in any civilized society that says a person deserves to die because he or she is a drug suspect,” David said in a CBCP News report. 

In just three days, 81 suspected drug users and traffickers were killed in separate anti-drug operations conducted in Bulacan and Metro Manila.

Of the figure, 32 were killed in simultaneous raids in Bulacan on Tuesday and 28 in Metro Manila the following day.

A senior high school student identified as Kian Loyd delos Santos was killed by police officers during Oplan Galugad in Caloocan City on Thursday.

Police claimed the 17-year-old Delos Santos allegedly tried to fight back, prompting the officers to shoot him. But CCTV footage showed police dragging the boy, and witnesses claimed he was given a gun and told to fire it then run.

David warned supporters of extrajudicial killings that they might wake up one day finding their names on the drug list.

“Anyone can be listed as a drug suspect,” he said.

Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros said the government should treat drug addiction as a health issue rather than a crime and prioritize rehabilitating drug dependents.

House probe

Ifugao lawmaker Teodoro Baguilat Jr. urged his colleagues in the House to probe the spate of drug-related killings as he expressed fear the country is “rapidly descending into a state of lawlessness.”

Baguilat raised the alarm after the number of victims of extrajudicial killings escalated recently.

“We are in danger of destroying the peace and order that the President said he wanted to preserve. If we let these killings continue with impunity, then there is no reason for civilians not to resort to violence to settle disputes. Any justification can be used,” Baguilat said.

Earlier, Baguilat urged relevant House committees to investigate the drug extrajudicial killings.

He said his pleas fell on deaf ears, as the majority of lawmakers allied with President Duterte opted to keep quiet on the issue.

‘Murderers’

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza described police officers tagged in the killing of De los Santos as murderers who should be put in jail.

Police Officer 3 Armel Oares and PO1s Jeremias Pereda and Jerwin Cruz as well as their immediate superior Chief

Insp. Amor Cerilo have been relieved from their posts.

Atienza urged Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa to impose harsher penalties on the officers, instead of simply administrative relief and reassignment to Mindanao.

“They should be handcuffed and jailed while being investigated,”

Atienza said in a news forum in Quezon City yesterday.

Atienza lamented that some officers seemed eager to kill drug suspects with impunity, blindly following the orders of President Duterte and Dela Rosa.

“It’s more of kill first and justify later,” said Atienza, adding Duterte and Dela Rosa should be blamed for the spike in drug-related killings.

Reacting to Atienza’s remarks, PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos said the relief of the police officers was an initial step among several actions to be taken.

“They will be properly investigated both administratively and criminally. Let us not prematurely judge the case and allow the investigation and possible prosecution run its course,” Carlos said.

Scholarship

Meanwhile, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte proposed the grant of scholarships to children of police officers killed in the line of duty, especially in the anti-drug war.

Villafuerte’s proposal is contained in House Bill 6058 which, he said, deems it necessary to prioritize the educational grant for orphaned children of fallen police officers in consideration of the increasing cost of education.

“It also recognizes education’s incomparable rate of return to the individual and the nation as a whole.”

Villafuerte said under the current law or Republic Act No. 6963, surviving children of police officers killed in the line of duty receive educational grants through the PNP’s educational benefits trust fund, which is dependent on the proceeds from the license fees for firearms collected by the PNP.

To ensure the sustainability of this program, Villafuerte proposed under Bill 6058 that the trust fund should receive an allocation in the annual appropriations, on top of various other sources.

These other funding sources include proceeds generated from examination stamps, clearance and certification fees and other service income of the National Police Commission, proceeds from license fees for firearms and fines and penalties collected by the PNP.

Anarchy

The government’s brutal war against illegal drugs is a deliberate move to create anarchy and give Malacañang a reason to place the entire country under martial law, according to a former military official.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the administration is bent on establishing a federal system of government, which he said could only be fast-tracked under military rule.

“Any massive violent reaction from all these government security and peace and order actions – police brutal anti-drug operations, termination of the peace talks with the communists and the reported presence of terrorists in the country – are enough grounds to justify the declaration of martial law.”

The source said that even Kusug Tausug party-list Rep. Shernee Abubakar Tan of Sulu bared this plan when she declared that she was not only supporting the extension of martial law in Mindanao, but for President Duterte to impose it throughout the country.

Tan had said that with the country under the military rule, it would be easy for the President establish a federal system of government.

 “That declaration coming from a lady lawmaker from Mindanao was a clear sign that something, unknown to most, is in the drawing board of the present administration,” the source added.

When he assumed the presidency, Duterte declared that he wanted a federal system of government and that if he could do this in two to three years, he would be happy to leave Malacañang. The retired military officer also cited the siege in Marawi City, which prompted the President to declare martial law Mindanao.

Being an expert in threat assessment, the source said the New People’s Army (NPA) could also be used by the administration to push its plan change the form of government to a federal system. 

“With the termination of the peace talks, any increase in NPA attacks across the country will justify the declaration of martial law which,” he said.

On the campaign against illegal drugs, he said any massive and violent public response would result in a military rule, as what happened in Mindanao after the Marawi siege. – With Artemio Dumlao, Kurt Adrian dela Peña, Jaime Laude, Emmanuel Tupas

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