EDITORIAL - Another minor killed

EDITORIAL - Another minor killed

(The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2021 - 12:00am

As the nation can see, it will take more than the possibility of a full-blown investigation by the International Criminal Court to stop the killings that have characterized the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

On Wednesday last week, police serving an arrest warrant on Antonio Dalit in Biñan, Laguna ended up killing the drug suspect along with a 16-year-old companion, Johndy Maglinte. Police claimed the two had fought back, prompting the arresting officers to retaliate. Relatives of the fatalities, on the other hand, maintained that there was no such resistance, and that Dalit was first shot dead followed by Maglinte who had witnessed the killing.

The nine members of the arresting team together with the chief of Laguna’s Police Intelligence Unit have been placed under custody by the Philippine National Police. PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar acknowledged reports attributed to Maglinte’s relatives, that the boy was shot while face down and handcuffed. But Eleazar stressed that unless the relatives come forward and issue formal statements, this story would be hearsay.

Maglinte is just the latest minor to be killed in the war on drugs. The police team has insisted that he was an accomplice of Dalit in drug dealing. This, however, does not automatically justify the lethal use of force, whether on a minor or an adult suspect. A credible investigation will have to show that shooting to kill rather than disable is justified. But will the whole truth ever be known?

Putting together the true picture of circumstances that led to the killing of thousands of drug suspects since 2016, in what the PNP has insisted were legitimate police anti-narcotics operations, has always been a challenge.

With only a handful of cases leading to indictments of abusive police operatives, the International Criminal Court initiated a preliminary examination of the war on drugs under the Duterte administration. Last week, on the eve of bowing out as chief ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda asked for judicial authority from the court’s pre-trial chamber to launch a full-blown investigation of possible crimes against humanity committed in the course of the war on drugs.

The killing of yet another minor can only reinforce Bensouda’s conclusion that there is a systematic campaign to execute drug suspects in the Philippines. The ICC has yet to finally decide whether it has jurisdiction over the Philippine case. This will depend on whether the country has the capability and willingness to investigate and punish those accused of engaging in summary executions. It will depend on whether persons like Johndy Maglinte can get justice.

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