Human rights panels urged to hear out Lascañas testimonies vs Dutertes

Human rights panels urged to hear out Lascañas testimonies vs Dutertes
A relative of a victim of an extra-judicial killing attends a memorial mass ahead of All Soul's Day to remember loved ones slain in the government's war on drugs, at the Commission on Human Rights in Manila on October 29, 2021.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines —  Lawmakers heading the human rights committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives should investigate the claims by a self-confessed hitman from the so-called “Davao Death Squad” against the Duterte family, a human rights group said on Thursday.

Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan, said that there is a need for the House and the Senate, as well as the Commission on Human Rights, to “seriously investigate” the allegations by retired police officer Arturo Lascañas that former President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Sara Duterte both had a hand in the drug war killings in Davao City and, later, the entire nation.

Palabay added that with several whistleblowers like Lascañas coming forward with their revelations, the government’s rights commission and the congressional human rights committees should exercise their mandate in “getting to the bottom” of drug-related killings under Rodrigo Duterte’s terms as Davao City mayor until his presidency.

“It is high time that these revelations not only be seriously investigated through Philippine domestic mechanisms. For the sake of the victims, who number in the tens of thousands, the investigations must exact justice and accountability from the perpetrators,” Palabay said, adding that the Dutertes must be punished to the full extent of the law.

“They owe this to the thousands of victims who have long been seeking justice and accountability,” she added. 

On Wednesday, Lascañas said that it was the vice president who, as Davao City mayor, approved and devised the “Oplan Tokhang” campaign in Davao City — an anti-illegal narcostics initiative by the Davao Death Squad that led to an unconfirmed number of missing persons and deaths.

The Office of the Vice President has yet to comment on the former top cop’s allegations made during a media forum. Duterte, however, has denied links to the Davao vigilante group, saying in a statement that she does not "require a death squad" for the things that she can do.

Lascañas also said during the event that the former president — who admitted to the existence of the Davao Death Squad early into his presidency — was the “biggest drug lord” in the country who deliberately killed rival drug kingpins.

The House Committees on Justice and Human Rights in 2023 adopted a resolution urging the Marcos administration to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its drug war probe. 

Official estimates suggest that thousands lost their lives during police operations under the former president. The Philippine National Police reported around 6,000 deaths linked to anti-drug operations, but human rights groups argue that the actual number could be as high as 30,000, with several innocent victims. — Cristina Chi

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