‘Philippine image ruined by killings, not me’

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - If the country is being cast in a negative light before the international community, the government should not blame her but “state-inspired” killings, Sen. Leila de Lima said yesterday.

De Lima also believes that President Duterte was behind her ouster by her colleagues as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights.

 The committee, which is investigating drug-related summary executions, had as witness a self-confessed hit man who accused Duterte of involvement in the killings of over 1,000 people in Davao when he was the city’s mayor.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, in a privilege speech yesterday, claimed that the probe by De Lima’s panel was meant to destroy Duterte, and was “wittingly or unwittingly” tarnishing the country’s image abroad because of negative reporting by the foreign media.

“At the outset, they (Duterte allies) have been trying to stop the hearings on extrajudicial killings. I repeat: I’m not destroying the image of the Senate and the country; what truly destroys us is the continued killings in the country,” De Lima said in Filipino.

“These (killings) have worsened because of certain actions and statements of top officials that seem to encourage the setting aside of human rights in the fight against illegal drugs,” she said.

By De Lima’s count, nearly 2,000 people were summarily executed by unknown assailants for allegedly being drug pushers.

She had also questioned some police reports that other suspected drug pushers were killed by law enforcers because the suspects allegedly fought back.

She walked out as Cayetano was delivering his speech and later told reporters that she could not bear listening to baseless accusations against her and the rude treatment accorded to her.

“I left in protest to the insidious plot to silence me in our search for the truth behind the killings in the name of the campaign against drugs,” she said.

Two hours after the speech and following a closed-door caucus, she was ousted as chair of the justice committee.

Earlier in the day, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV filed a resolution seeking another inquiry to be conducted by the justice committee on the alleged killings of the so-called Davao death squads.

Trillanes’ Senate Resolution 151 was apparently a way to go around a technicality that the testimony of the self-confessed hit man – Edgar Matobato – last week cannot be included in the panel’s probe into extrajudicial killings.

In defending his decision not to grant Matobato protective custody, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said Matobato’s testimony on Duterte’s alleged ordering the killing of over 1,000 suspected criminals and opponents was not covered by the previous resolution to investigate extrajudicial killings.

Pimentel said the first resolution’s scope was on the reported summary executions from May 10 to July 12 this year while Matobato’s testimony was based on his claimed experience from 1988 to 2013.

The Senate President added there was no guarantee that the resolution will be referred to the justice committee, now chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon.             

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