Over 300 rights groups press for accountability from Duterte, his men over killings

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Over 300 rights groups press for accountability from Duterte, his men over killings
In this photo taken August 18, 2020, Anakpawis holds 'Candle Lighting for Justice' for slain activists Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez.
Anakpawis / release

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights advocates and groups across the globe are pressing the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Human Rights Council to prosecute President Rodrigo Duterte, as they mark August as “a month of killings” for the government.

Over 300 organizations signed the solidarity statement calling on the ICC and the UNHRC “to conduct impartial and independent investigations into the human rights crisis in the country and to prosecute President Duterte and his allies for their cruel crimes against the Filipino people.”

Domestic rights groups led by Karapatan held week-long activities under a #StopTheKilllingsPH campaign, culminating on August 17, a year since the killing of Karapatan paralegal Zara Alvarez, whose murder remains unresolved.

The killings of teenagers Kian Delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz, Reynaldo de Guzman also happened in August. Delos Santos, 17, was killed in an anti-drug operation in Caloocan City. His case was a rare instance of cops being found guilty of murder.

Arnaiz and de Guzman were also killed in August 2017 with the former accused of “fighting back” against the cops, a narrative that has become common in operations where supposed suspects are killed.

August 2020 also saw brutal killings, with Alvarez was gunned down in Bacolod City on August 17 evening, exactly a week since peace consultant Randall Echanis was killed in his rented home in Quezon City. Both murders happened while the country was under a community quarantine due to the pandemic.

The Department of Justice-led Administrative Order 35 task force is looking into the murders of Echanis and Alvarez, and other extrajudicial killings tagged to be politically-motivated. It has yet to release an update a year since the deaths of Echanis and Alvarez.

"As August has come to be marked as a month of killings in the Philippines, under the Duterte administration — an administration whose legacy is widespread killings, suffering families left behind, and state terror, we choose to mark August as a month of remembering and reckoning: a month of taking action and demanding justice," the groups said in their solidarity statement.

PNP: No policy of killings in 'drug war'

As the groups marked the anniversary of Delos Santos’ killing on Monday, the Commission on Human Rights also noted that in the four years since then, “killings continue to persist” and cases have languished, making seeking accountability for alleged violations difficult. 

But Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar assured the CHR that the PNP does not tolerate offenses of its officers and is cleansing its ranks.

He said that more than 5,000 police officers have been dismissed from service since 2016 for various offenses. That number includes the three cops dismissed for the killing of Delos Santos.

“Aside from dismissal, thousands more were suspended, demoted and were punished with forfeiture of salary for various minor offenses,” the PNP also said.

Eleazar added: "The case of Kian will serve as a constant reminder to all our personnel that we will never tolerate wrongdoings and abuse the power that was given to us by the Filipino people."

The Philippine government, led by the Department of Justice, is reviewing more than 5,000 “drug war” cases that resulted in deaths. The panel flagged in its initial reports that police officers failed to follow protocols in these operations.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday that the panel has completed its report on the 52 administrative cases lodged before the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service and where cops were found liable.

The PNP said it will coordinate with the DOJ to discuss the results of the review.

Eleazar said the PNP is ready for and open to any investigation.

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