Remulla won’t tolerate fake natural deaths in drug war

Robertzon Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Remulla wonât tolerate fake natural deaths in drug war
It appeared that the certificates reflected “natural causes” as a cause of death for some of those who were killed in the government’s anti-drug war.
PTV4 screengrab

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla is leaving no stone unturned in the falsification of documents relating to drug-related deaths, as he vowed to run after those responsible.

It appeared that the certificates reflected “natural causes” as a cause of death for some of those who were killed in the government’s anti-drug war.

“We will just go with the law, whatever violation, we will pursue them. We will pursue those that have violated the law. We cannot tolerate this,” Remulla yesterday said when asked about the investigation on the falsified death records.

He added that the Department of Justice would exhaust all legal remedies and follow the rule of law in determining the liability of those responsible for the bogus death certificates.

Remulla’s statement came after the Court of Appeals’ Fourth Division recently ordered the correction of the death certificate of nine-year-old Lenin Baylon, whose death records showed he died from bronchopneumonia instead of a gunshot wound.

Baylon, who was inside a computer shop in December 2016, died from a stray bullet when motorcycle-riding gunmen drove by and shot two suspected drug traders in an apparent anti-illegal drug operation in Caloocan City.

Although the investigation is still ongoing, Remulla believes that the funeral parlor that issued Baylon’s death certificate falsified the document. He said this angle would be among those that will be looked into by the National Bureau of Investigation.

Aside from Baylon’s case, investigators are also probing nine other “wrongful death” cases related to the anti-drug campaign of former president Rodrigo Duterte.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) partnered with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to designate a human rights officer in all of its corrections facilities nationwide.

BuCor officer-in-charge Gregorio Catapang Jr. and CHR Chairman Richard Palpal-latoc led the signing of the memorandum of agreement at the new CHR building in Quezon City.

Under the partnership, BuCor commits to designate at least one human rights officer in every security compound of each BuCor prison facility.

The CHR will provide training for the designated human rights officers, who will serve as focal persons to bring up grievances, complaints or requests of persons deprived of liberty (PDL) to the BuCor. They will also serve as liaison officers to allow prisons and the CHR to discuss human rights-related issues.

The BuCor and CHR also committed to develop and implement a special training course for other BuCor officers and personnel “to substantially orient/re-orient them of human rights norms, standards and principles, as well as on the role of BuCor in the prevention of violations and protection of the rights of the PDL.”

The agencies will also review BuCor’s existing programs, policies and correctional practices to ensure that they are consistent with human rights norms, standards and principles.

“I think human rights is something very precious to all of us here… Even if we are deprived of liberty, we still have rights. This is a part of my reform agenda,” said Catapang, who was appointed to replace suspended BuCor director-general Gerald Bantag, who is among those facing charges over the killing of radio broadcaster Percy Lapid.

According to Catapang, the recent discoveries at the BuCor, including the involvement of some PDLs in Lapid’s killing, show that the agency “failed in its mission” to safeguard PDLs, as well as make sure that they will not harm or be part of a conspiracy to harm other people.

Palpal-latoc said the agreement was the outcome of the recent visit of CHR representatives to the BuCor, where issues involving PDLs were discussed.

“This memorandum of agreement further ensures that the human rights of every PDL is recognized and upheld at all times,” he said. “We are very happy and glad of this endeavor and we at the commission very much hope that it inspires both institutions to further discuss, collaborate and work closely on programs for the good of the people of our country.”

CHR Commissioner Beda Epres described the provisions of the agreement as “necessary building blocks in setting up systems and even an environment that not only prevents violations, but also protects the rights of persons deprived of liberty in our care.”

He commended the BuCor for its dedication to improve the quality of life of PDLs and improve internal structures to serve them. – Janvic Mateo



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