THE Integrated Bar of the Philippines expressed alarm Wednesday over the rising bodycount in the government’s war on drugs, and called for an investigation into the spate of killings of drug suspects by police and vigilante groups.
“The alarming spate of what are reported to be vigilante killings of suspected drug users and pushers, as well as the increasing number of reported arrest-related deaths of drug suspects, deserves serious attention,” the IBP, the national organization of lawyers, said in a statement.
“We are a nation of laws and not of men and, as such, must never lose sight of the very foundation of our democracy, the idea that the rule of law must prevail. It is at times such as these, when the temptation to take extralegal measures is at its height, that our conviction to abide by this principle must likewise be at its strongest,” the group added.
Even the US government through Secretary of State John Kerrt weighed in on the extrajudicial killings. “We hope to hear more from President Duterte about protecting human rights and maintaiing the rule of law,” Kerry said.
Duterte, even before he assumed the presidency, drew criticism from United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon for his calls to kill criminals.
In seeking a probe of the killings, the IBP urged the Philippine National Police and the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a serious and credible investigation, and to resolve the incidents and prosecute the wrongdoers.
“It must not be forgotten that regardless of whether or not the victim is a drug offender, unjustified killing is murder nonetheless. Likewise, while our law enforcers have every right, and even the duty, to utilize deadly force when necessary to protect themselves and innocent bystanders, the abuse of this authority is equally criminal,” the IBP said.
Earlier, the Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag), an organization of human rights lawyers, issued a similar statement.
The PNP has recorded over 300 killings of drug suspects—both by police and vigilante groups—since President Rodrigo Duterte took office on July 1.
On Wednesday, the Catholic Church urged the PNP to go after “the big fish” in the illegal drug trade and not merely the “small fry” drug pushers that have been showing up dead.
San Jose Bishop Robert Mallari said even suspected drug pushers should be given due process.
“I am worried about the degradation of human life, especially of the poor, addicts or pushers they may be, who are not really the ‘big fish’ and who are in the drug business only for survival,” Mallari said over Radio Veritas.
He stressed the importance of respecting human rights, even of those suspected of being involved in the illegal drug trade.
“We recognize that for the first time we see our government showing political will to fight against criminality related to drugs and we commend our present government for this. We pray that the PNP will respect the law, the rights of others, and always consider the absolute value of human life,” Mallari said. With Vito Barcelo