THE Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption on Monday expressed concern over the killings of innocent people in the Duterte administration’s bloody war against drugs.
Dante Jimenez, VACC founding chairman, reacted to the killing of seven people, including three teenagers and a pregnant woman, by armed masked men looking for a drug suspect in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City on Dec. 27.
He said the incident was not a result of a gang war, but a covert police operation based on witnesses’ account.
“We went to the area because of our concern about those teenagers being involved in drug use, trafficking or pushing. In four places we’d gone to, three of the minors were confirmed not using drugs, according to their relatives and neighbors,” he said.
“We also went to the barangay to investigate, and found out only one of the teenage boys had tried using drugs just once.”
He said five of the fatalities were just in the area of the police operation.
“In our initial assessment, I think there have been many of the people who became what President Rodrigo Duterte called... collateral damage. And we call them collateral victims. They are the ones who get caught in a crossfire. Some are just a case of mistaken identity,” he said.
He urged the President to create a special task force composed of police officers and prosecutors to look into the deaths of innocent people.
An anti-death penalty lawmaker on Monday voiced concern of President Duterte’s wish to put five to six malefactors to death every day, or more than 2,000 a year, once Congress reinstates capital punishment. Such a move, said Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, would usher in “an unprecedented era of darkness and medieval savagery.”
“If the President had his way, our predominantly Catholic country could go down as the world’s new top executioner, ahead of non-Catholic countries such as China, Iran and Pakistan,” Atienza said.
“It is bad enough we already have a virtual death penalty in place, with the unabated summary executions of alleged suspects sans the benefit of a full and fair trial,” he added.
Senator Richard Gordon, meanwhile, said he hopes that the government will arrest and convict those responsible for vigilante killings or summary executions—including rogue policemen.
“To effectively put an end to the killings with impunity, people must be part of the process of change. People must organize village watch groups to guard against crimes, particularly the influx of drug dealers and pushers, in their respective areas,” said Gordon.
He said the people themselves should be empowered to help transform their respective areas into drug-free neighborhoods where their families may safely reside. With Maricel V. Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta