PNP told: Cooperate with investigations if EJKs do not exist

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP told: Cooperate with investigations if EJKs do not exist
A Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency agent secures part of a street holding residents temporarily during a drug raid in Maharlika Village, Taguig, south of Manila on Feb. 28, 2018. The drug raid was conducted to arrest five drug dealers, but only two were captured. President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has left nearly 4,000 drug suspects dead and seen human rights groups claim he was responsible for a crime against humanity. The anti-drugs campaign enjoys popular support while the fiery-tongued Duterte has rejected any criticism of his human rights record.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — Instead of defending its purported gains in the so-called war on drugs, the national police should cooperate with the bodies investigating its lapses and well-documented human rights abuses, an international rights monitor said Tuesday. 

In a statement issued Tuesday, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch called on the Philippine National Police to provide these investigating bodies, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the country's own Commission on Human Rights, full access to police records on its anti-drug operations. 

This comes after Police Gen. Camilo Cascolan, the newest chief of the PNP denied that the extra-judicial killings linked to these operations even existed. 

READ: PNP chief: Government not sponsoring extrajudicial killings

"Cascolan’s outright denial that extrajudicial killings took place in the government’s ‘drug war’ is a blatant attempt to whitewash the sordid record of the PNP. Respected human rights groups and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have comprehensively documented these EJKs since the start of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs'," Robertson said. 

"Numerous victims, their families, and witnesses have repeatedly pointed out police misconduct during drug raids where police not only illegally killed suspects but manufactured and planted bogus evidence, such as guns, to claim that victims were armed when they were killed," he also said. 

Earlier in June, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet slammed the administration's campaign—a flagship of President Rodrigo Duterte electoral platform—for its widespread and "grave violations" of human rights. 

'EJKs do not exist, are not gov't sponsored'

Speaking at his first press conference as the country's top cop, Cascolan, one of the masterminds behind Oplan Tokhang, rejected the notion of extra-judicial killings, saying they did not exist but also that many police officers were also casualties. 

Cascolan at the same briefing pointed instead to the agency's efforts to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs and vowed a tougher stance towards illegal drugs and the coronavirus pandemic. 

This, while he also earlier said that it was time to update the drug war's existing strategies, which were first crafted in 2016. 

"We will no longer be regarded as just enforcers in the checkpoints. We will have more presence in barangays. We will be closer to the people in this fight," he said. 

“We will further push our fight against illegal drugs, another menace that insidiously destroys our people. We will be more aggressive in capturing high-value targets,” he added, vowing an intensified campaign against illegal narcotics, which has remained largely unhampered by the community quarantines. 

READ: Despite police claims, drug war killings continue amid COVID-19 lockdown — int'l rights monitor

In a press conference in late May, the Human Rights Watch also disclosed its report that found that Oplan Tokhang continues behind the scenes despite the coronavirus-induced lockdowns, with the nightly killings more difficult to document. 

'Cooperate with investigations if PNP is innocent'

For Robertson, the pronouncement is another attempt at dodging accountability, and if Cascolan and the PNP are truly innocent, then they should cooperate with ongoing investigations, which administration officials routinely slam in public statements. 

READ: NewsLab: The War on Drugs

According to local and international rights monitors, over 30,000 Filipinos have been casualties of the summary vigilante-style executions linked to the so-called "war on drugs."

Even the PNP's own numbers say that over 5,000 were killed in official police operations, many of whom were listed as "drug personalities" and whom police said violently resisted arrest.

"Instead of burying his head in the sand in this cynical and self-interested attempt to evade accountability, Cascolan should ensure that the PNP fully cooperates with investigating bodies such as the Commission on Human Rights, human rights NGOs, as well as international mechanisms such as the OHCHR, starting with the PNP providing investigators with full access to police records of these operations," Robertson said.  

"If the PNP has nothing to hide, it should welcome those who want to ferret out the truth in the ‘drug war.’"

with a report from Gaea Katreena Cabico









As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 25, 2022 - 10:49am

Reuters wins Pulitzers, the most prestigious awards in American journalism, in international reporting for its story on the methods of police killing squads in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and for feature photography documenting the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

In covering the deadly drug war in the Philippines, Reuters reporters Clare Baldwin, Andrew R.C. Marshall and Manuel Mogato "demonstrated how police in the president’s 'drug war' have killed with impunity and consistently been shielded from prosecution," Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler says.

June 25, 2022 - 10:49am

Gabriela Women's Party supports the request of International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan to resume probe on President Duterte's drug war killings. — The STAR/Sheila Crisostomo

October 20, 2021 - 10:22am

Th Department of Justice releases information on the 52 drug war cases it reviews based on police records.

Since 2016, no criminal complaint has been filed.

The DOJ notes that the cases are to undergo further investigation for possible filing of criminal charges against erring police officers.

February 28, 2021 - 1:29pm

The bloody shootout between the police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Quezon City last Wednesday should speed up implementation of better monitoring of law enforcement operations, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto says.

Recto says law enforcers should have bodycams as well as dashboard cams in their vehicles.

“It is again a bloody reminder of a missing but vital equipment in policing—video recording devices, especially during operations,” Recto says.

Recto says in a release that he sponsored with then Sen. JV Ejercito a P5.4-billion allocation in the 2017 national budget for new police equipment, including body cameras, "but it took four years and five PNP chiefs to buy some 2,600 pieces."

February 25, 2021 - 4:42pm

Heads of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and Philippine National Police vow thorough probe into the shootout along Commonweatlh Avenue on Wednesday night.

They say they will defer to the findings of the joint Board of Inquiry formed to investigate the incident, where three law enforcement personnel were killed.

PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva says he cannot yet give operational details, saying those are still subject to investigation.

Police Gen. Debold Sinas says findings will be made public as soon as these are available.

February 25, 2021 - 1:04pm

Sen. Risa Hontiveros says she will call for a Senate investigation into the shootoout between Quezon City police officers and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency personnel in an anti-drug operation.

"We need to look into this further. It is very alarming that this is not the first time that such a ‘misencounter’ has happened. The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) did admit that this has happened numerous times. These ‘misencounters’ should be rare, not common," Hontiveros says.

According to initial reports, the police conducted a buy-bust operation but did not know they were transacting with PDEA personnel.

"How could this have happened, at all, in the first place? Why did the shootout take place for as long as an hour? Hindi ba pwedeng magkalinawan, even within the first few minutes, that a misencounter breaks out?" Hontiveros adds.

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