House panel to summon Rodrigo Duterte to drug war probe

House panel to summon Rodrigo Duterte to drug war probe
Former president Rodrigo Duterte and former Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa attend the funeral mass of Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla at San Pedro Cathedral in Davao City on Jan. 15, 2024.
Facebook / Bong Go

MANILA, Philippines — The House human rights committee on Tuesday approved a motion to invite former President Rodrigo Duterte to its investigation of the drug war.

If the panel pushes through with its invitation, this will mark the first time that any legislative body has summoned the former chief executive over his so-called war on drugs.

During Tuesday's hearing, the panel also approved motions to invite former Sen. Leila de Lima and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, former chief of the Philippine National Police and the architect of Duterte's violent anti-illegal drugs campaign. 

The motion was made by Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Party-list).

Rep. Bienvenido Abante (Manila, 6th District), chair of the committee, said that he has changed his mind about not inviting the former president and Dela Rosa after hearing the testimonies of drug war victims, many of whom recounted grim experiences in dealing with the police, who often covered for each other's missteps.

"As much as I want to give the due courtesy to the former President and Senator Dela Rosa, because of the gravity of the statements, they should face these people and hear their complaints," Abante added.

This marks a departure from Abante's statement during the first House drug war hearing, where he said that he would exclude Duterte and Dela Rosa from the investigation out of courtesy.

In the last three hearings, victims’ families recounted similar instances of government inaction and reluctance to cooperate in their quest for justice — stories that have already been surfaced by human rights groups and the media years prior.
The ICC — considered the court of last resort for countries unwilling or unable to prosecute offenders — is investigating the alleged crimes against humanity committed under the drug war waged by Duterte during his term as president, and earlier, Davao City mayor. The probe covers the period from 2011 to 2019, when the Philippines was still a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.

Official figures put deaths from Duterte's anti-narcotics campaign at more than 6,000, but estimates from human rights groups peg the actual number of fatalities as at least 30,000. — Cristina Chi

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