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4 years since Kian's murder, groups seek accountability for other 'drug war' deaths

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4 years since Kian's murder, groups seek accountability for other 'drug war' deaths
In this Aug. 15, 2018 photo, parents and children from Caloocan gathered in Beasa Libis, Brgy 160, on the site where Kian delos Santos was shot, to offer flowers and prayers.
Akbayan / Released

MANILA, Philippines — Four years since the murder of teenager Kian delos Santos by personnel of the Philippine National Police, killings linked to the Duterte administration's "war on drugs" continue, rights groups said Monday.

Cases have meanwhile languished, making seeking accountability for alleged violations difficult. 

Kian delos Santos, who was killed at 17, was dragged through the dirt during an anti-drug operation and made to kneel by three Caloocan police officers who eventually shot him. Police later lied and claimed that the teenager violently resisted arrest until CCTV footage later proved otherwise.

The 'nanlaban' narrative is a common one in "drug war" operations. 

Police leadership often point to the conviction of the three cops as proof of a functioning justice system but progress in other cases has been slow.

READ: On Kian's slay, court tells cops: Murder 'never... a function of law enforcement'

In a statement, the Commission on Human Rights said that investigations of thousands of cases in question are still pending, with only few cases reaching the courts. 

"We call on the government to give better meaning to commitments to uphold human rights by seeking the truth behind numerous deaths and other forms of human rights violations in the country, including cases of alleged extrajudicial killings linked to the government's anti-drug campaign," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.

"We must continue to assert the value of human life and dignity, and cease regarding others as mere collateral damages in pursuit of public peace," De Guia, a lawyer, added. 

Four years since the murder of Delos Santos, and the official number of drug war deaths acknowledged by police has reached 6,165, according to the latest figures issued in late July

According to rights monitors both in the Philippines and abroad, though, the actual number may be as high as 30,000. Movement restrictions because of the pandemic have not prevented the killings. 

The CHR, which has often been left out of investigations on the "drug war" deaths, also expressed openness again to work with the government in investigating killings. 

READ: Abuse in 'drug war' routinely covered up, advocates say

ICC probe an 'urgent step' towards justice for families

In a separate statement, local right watchdog Karapatan urged the International Criminal Court to "listen and act on the pleas of the families of drug war victims for justice."

To recall, the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced in June that she is seeking a full-blown investigation into killings committed during the Duterte administration's "drug war" as one of her last acts before her term ends.

However, the ICC as a whole has yet to formally agree to a probe, which would fall on the shoulders of the successor of former ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, UK lawyer Karim Khan. 

"For many other cases, the police’s refusal to open documents and cooperate with investigations along with the persistent ‘nanlaban’ narrative and patterns of planting evidence make it impossible for families to file cases and seek justice — all while Duterte continues to goad the police to ‘add another’ dead body in the death toll of its campaigns of mass murder,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said.

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

President Rodrigo Duterte chafed at the announcement and vowed not to cooperate with a possible investigation, with his spokesperson calling the evidence "based on hearsay" and claiming that the thousands of deaths linked to the drug war were simply "collateral damage." 

But on Friday, August 13, families of "drug war" victims together with their legal counsels submitted their representations as part of the ICC’s victim representation process, together with submissions on views of victims and kin, ahead of a decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber on whether or not the court will approve the Office of the Prosecutor’s request to investigate the killings.

"Genuine justice for Kian cannot come without justice for all and putting an end to the killings in the Philippines," Palabay said.

"While the government uses the rightful conviction of Kian’s killers to claim that domestic mechanisms of accountability are working and to dissuade investigations by international bodies, nothing could be further from the truth when these mechanisms have proven to be slow, ineffective, and virtually non-existent for thousands of other families who now see the possibility of an ICC investigation as their most crucial shot at justice.”

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

DRUG WAR

HUMAN RIGHTS

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

KARAPATAN

KIAN DELOS SANTOS

OPLAN TOKHANG

WAR ON DRUGS

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