CHR says Duterte admin's rights violations 'incomparable' to previous terms

CHR says Duterte admin's rights violations 'incomparable' to previous terms
Latest data from the government’s RealNumbersPH platform showed that a total of 5,810 people were killed in alleging shootouts with law enforcers waging President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs.
AFP / Noel Celis, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte government has seen more rights violations committed by police officers than past Philippine administrations so far, the Commission on Human Rights said Thursday.

Speaking in an interview aired over ANC, lawyer Jacqueline de Guia, CHR spokesperson, said that while "no particular administration has been spared," the rate and the scale of rights violations under Rodrigo Duterte is "incomparable."

This comes after Malacañang took back its earlier promise to open drug war documents to the Department of Justice after claiming that such documents were a matter of national security and thus confidential. 

"Never has there been a time where we were so overwhelmed with the number of cases we are handling right now," she said, adding that the commission was investigating almost 3,300 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings to go with the killings of lawyers, journalists and activists. 

Asked if the chief executive himself played a role in the worsening human rights situation, De Guia said: "He's the most influential official in the country. Words matter. We have repeatedly said that he is very influential to his constituents and to the government officials under him."

 "We would want the highest-ranking official to be very circumspect in his language and to encourage accountability lest it spill over to other sectors as we see now, and to make sure the justice system is working not only for a select few but for everyone." 

The government's own figures acknowledge almost 8,000 deaths in official anti-drug operations, though rights groups both here and abroad say the death toll may be as high as 30,000.

Malacañang's retracted promise comes despite a Supreme Court ruling that holds that all records pertaining to deaths linked to the war on drugs are a matter of "grave public concern." 

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra took a soft stance on this, saying his department would "play it by ear," though the CHR echoed his position that drug war records are criminal in nature and not a national security issue.

"The climate of fear that pervades or grips the witnesses, as well as the kin of the surviving family, are just some of the factors that impede us in an effective investigation," De Guia said. 

RELATED: Rights groups question PNP internal cleansing after murder of 52-year-old

On-record admission of rights violation sought in killing of 52-year-old 

De Guia added that the CHR was "very encouraged" by the charges against the Quezon City cop who murdered a 52-year-old on video but said that the CHR would continue its investigation for the purpose of "monitoring the charges filed."

"We also want to make sure that there is a declaration of a human rights violation in this case," she said. 

The PNP's reaction so far has been mixed, however, and has not quite hit this mark just yet. 

On one hand, Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief ordered the expediting of criminal and administrative raps against the cop. He has since condemned the murder. 

However, he also made a point of saying that good cops outnumbered dirty ones in the PNP organization. "We believe that more and more of our police remain true to their sworn duty and ready to serve the people," he said.  

He went so far as to suggest that the lack of mental health services in the PNP could be linked to the spate of police abuses.

"Police commanders who observe signs of emotional imbalance or mental disorder on their men should immediately refer them for neuro-psychiatric evaluation, through their respective health units," he said in a statement Thursday. 

"This way we can help them cope and heal and avoid being a danger to themselves and others.”

READ: QC cop who killed 52-year-old already slapped with criminal, admin charges

PNP to defer to DOJ on disclosed cases

In a separate interview also on ANC, Eleazar said that the Philippine National Police would have to defer to the Department of Justice and follow the "chain of command." 

This contradicted earlier promises that the agency was willing to disclose all of its records amid the justice department's probe on the administration's flagship war on drugs. 

"We have at least 61 cases where we saw lapses...at least for those cases, there are findings. That's what we turned over," Eleazar said, adding that data privacy concerns were also holding them back from surrendering their records. 

"I was advised by my legal officer that only those cases which are closed and completed can be turned over, otherwise we might have problems."

De Guia pointed to the reluctance from police leadership as one factor holding back the progress of its probes. 

"We're trying to investigate these cases but its been very difficult. The non-cooperation of the police is still an insurmountable challenge," she said. 

"Besides, the CHR is still part of the government and we are very mindful of the Data Privacy Act as well as all the nuances. We will be operating within the framework of the law." 

READ: Admission of police breaches in 'drug war' met with cautious optimism

PNP reminded: Follow your own rules 

Pointing to the recent killing of an 18-year-old boy with autism, De Guia also reminded cops of their own rules on the use of force. 

"We hope that the PNP will stay true to the PNP Manual of Operations and make sure that the use of force is in accordance with the principles of necessity and proportionality," De Guia said. 

"We always say that obedience to orders must be lawful orders at the onset, and they must be very discerning."

Rules 7.4 and 7.5 of the PNP Operational Procedures hold that:

"When suspect is violent or threatening, and that less physical measures have been tried and deemed inappropriate, a more extreme, but non-deadly measure can be used such as baton/truncheon, pepper spray, stun gun and other nonlethal weapon to bring the suspect under control, or effect an arrest.

During confrontation with an armed offender, only such necessary and reasonable force should be applied as would be sufficient to overcome the resistance put up by the offender; subdue the clear and imminent danger posed by him; or to justify the force/act under the principles of selfdefense, defense of relative, or defense of stranger."

Rule 7.6 reads: "A police officer, however, is not required to afford offender/s attacking him the opportunity for a fair or equal struggle. The reasonableness of the force employed will depend upon the number of aggressors, nature and characteristic of the weapon used, physical condition, size and other circumstances to include the place and occasion of the assault. The police officer is given the sound discretion to consider these factors in employing reasonable force."

Rule 7.2 of the police manual also directs officers to "first issue a verbal warning" before resorting to force, but also says that failure to give a verbal warning is excusable "where threat to life or property is already imminent" and cops are given no choice. 

Even the PNP Guidebook on Human Rights-based Policing says: "The Principle of Proportionality means that a clear military target must not be attacked if the risk to civilians and to civilian/non-military property is larger than the expected military advantage or result." 

De Guia said that the commission was investigating the case of Edwin Arnigo, as the teenager was a member of a vulnerable population as a person with disability. 

"We have to consider that in many cases, victims are intimidated by the alleged perpetrators because they are still in power...when they see that there is tolerance, they have hesitations. It should be a whole of government approach in making sure that victims feel empowered to file cases."


READ: PWD group condemns shooting of 18-year-old with special needs

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