Leni calls for probe on drug killings by cops

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo yesterday called for an investigation into the rising number of people killed by the police in anti-drug operations.

She noted that there have been over a hundred cases of drug-related killings in less than a month.

Robredo said while she supports President Duterte’s fight against illegal drugs, it must be done without compromising the rule of law.

“While we are one with the fight against drugs, we are concerned with the growing culture of vigilantism and violence. We hope that the war is not done at the expense of the innocent and defenseless,” Robredo, a lawyer by profession, said.

“We encourage authorities concerned to look into these cases. If there is really culpability, then justice requires that appropriate cases be filed and that those proven to be accountable be punished,” she said.

Robredo became an official Cabinet member after she was recently appointed by Duterte as chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).

Robredo said she believes that the President, being a lawyer and former prosecutor, will do what is appropriate.

Sen. Leila de Lima has sought a congressional inquiry into the recent killings of drug suspects during police operations.

De Lima, a former justice secretary and chairman of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), said she would file a resolution to initiate a legislative investigation into the spate of killings since the election of Duterte.

As head of the Department of Justice, De Lima had pursued an investigation into the so-called Davao Death Squad during Duterte’s term as Davao City mayor.

CHR commissioner Roberto Cadiz is also pushing for an inquiry into the spate of killings of drug pushers.

Cadiz told The STAR that there seems to be a pattern of extrajudicial killings in connection with the anti-illegal drug campaign of the Duterte administration.

He earlier noted that over a hundred suspected illegal drug users and pushers have been killed since the new administration took over on June 30.

“I think it should be looked into in a form of national inquiry,” he said, adding that their investigations right now are on a case-to-case basis and based on individual complaints filed in their regional offices.

Cadiz said the conduct of the national inquiry would be up to CHR commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, the focal commissioner for extrajudicial killings.

CHR chairman Chito Gascon had said that the commission would create a task force to investigate reports of deaths related to the current administration’s anti-drug campaign.

Gascon stressed that the investigation will determine if human rights violations were committed.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said that the determination of whether or not De Lima’s resolution to conduct an inquiry into the drug-related killings would have to wait until plenary session of the Senate starts on July 25.

This early, several senators and officials of the executive branch have criticized De Lima for pushing the inquiry, which deals directly with the campaign of the Duterte administration to go after the illegal drug trade and criminality in general.

Pimentel said that once De Lima’s resolution is filed and referred to the appropriate committee in plenary, then the senators could deliberate on whether it is in aid of legislation or not.

“Whether Senator De Lima’s resolution to investigate drug-related killings in aid of legislation or not can only be determined after we read the resolution. It depends on how she justified the investigation in aid of legislation. Hence it’s too early to simply dismiss it,” he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that it would take some time before the resolution is taken up.

He noted that the opening of plenary session on July 25 would mostly be ceremonial because the senators would have to attend the first State of the Nation Address of President Duterte in the afternoon.

In the next session days, Lacson said that new leaders of the Senate would be elected and the first batch of bills and resolutions filed by the senators would have to be taken up on first reading.

“So between now and the time the resolution is presented on first reading, there could already be some incidents that could be used as basis to call for the hearing on the alleged summary executions or summary killings,” Lacson said.

Lacson reiterated that he does not see any reason to call for an inquiry at this time and that De Lima’s basis is based on speculation.

“So what I can say is that it is premature to quarrel over whether the police should attend or not. I am just avoiding a fishing expedition here,” he said.

However, both Pimentel and Lacson emphasized that the members of the PNP would have to attend the hearings once called.

“Once the Senate investigation is in full swing, everyone and all agencies are expected to cooperate. I join President Duterte’s administration in the fight against abuse as well as the abusive. We should rid our society of all forms of abuse by helping each other,” Pimentel said.

Lacson pointed out that only the Supreme Court can stop the Senate from conducting inquiries and only if it is found guilty of grave abuse of discretion.

The incoming leadership of the House of Representatives does not see any good result from any inquiry, much less in aid of legislation, for the alleged extrajudicial killings of drug suspects.

“I can’t think of any other legislation that may come out of the investigation,” said prospective speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte.

“Let’s say there were really some cases of summary execution, there were violations of the law, what else do we need to legislate? There are laws dealing with these,” Alvarez said.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat earlier filed House Resolution 61, calling for a congressional inquiry into the alleged extrajudicial killings.

“The Constitution mandates that no one should be deprived of life without due process of law, and that all accused are presumed innocent,” Baguilat of the Liberal Party stated in his resolution.

Baguilat said the spate of killings of suspected drug criminals “by people we expect to uphold the law hints at disrespect for the Constitution and the deterioration of the rule of law.”

Protecting the innocent

With the CHR under fire from the Duterte administration, commissioner Cadiz stressed that they are not stopping the government from its campaign to curb use of illegal drugs in the country.

Moreover, he said that their investigations are not meant to protect criminals, but instead ensure that innocent victims would not end up as collateral damage.

He noted several incidents wherein individuals who are not involved in illegal drugs were killed, such as the father of an alleged drug user who accompanied his son to a Pasay police station last week.

“What we are just saying is that please do not forget that there are processes that must be observed so that the innocent will not be taken as collateral damage,” said Cadiz.

“In the long run it will be bad for our country,” he added.

Catholic bishops yesterday expressed their support for De Lima’s plan to conduct a Senate inquiry into the alleged killings.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on the Laity (ECL) chairman Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo yesterday approved plans to investigate the killings of people linked to illegal drugs.

“I support all the efforts to curb extrajudicial killings. Everyone should be concerned about this since this is a great injustice. No one has the prerogative to take away the life of another,” said Pabillo. – With Marvin Sy, Delon Porcalla, Janvic Mateo, Evelyn Macairan

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