LAWMAKERS condemned the mass killing of drug suspects from poor neighborhoods in Bulacan, Manila and Caloocan, as the casualty count in four days of anti-drug operations hit 80 dead—including a 17-year-old Grade 11 student.
“We condemn this act of madness... If the accused comes from [the] poor...the result is consistently gruesome,” said Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, who likened the killings to those done under martial law.
Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano expressed concern that the killings, especially of drug-related suspects, has become a national policy.
“I call on the Filipino people to denounce this inhumane policy of killing as much as we denounce illegal drugs and corruption in government,” Alejano, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, said.
Alejano said due process must be observed at all times.
“Let us not allow ourselves to get accustomed to and grow numb to the killings that are happening in our country,” he said in Filipino.
Casilao, a member of the leftist Makabayan bloc, said the P900-million budget for Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded would result in even more deaths.
“The war on drugs is not even a war, as victims are helpless, like the case of the Grade 11 student killed in Caloocan,” he said. “We demand justice for him and all the victims, and call on various sectors to unite as this exhibition of atrocity should have no place in a supposedly democratic and free society.”
In Caloocan, 17-year-old student Kian Loyd delos Santos was killed by police who said he fired on them. Delos Santos’ father, however, said neither he nor his son were involved in drugs, and CCTV footage showed policemen dragging the boy to the place where he was found dead.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, an administration ally and a former chief of police, said 57 killings in two days of suspects who allegedly shot back at lawmen seemed “contrived.”
“Much as I do not want to preempt the investigations being conducted by PNP IAS and the DoJ, I want to remind them to be very fair and objective in conducting their probe to save whatever credibility is left in them,” Lacson said.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara underscored the need for the Senate to investigate the spate of killings in Duterte’s renewed war on drugs.
“The body count is reaching alarming levels,” said Angara, referring to the 32 killed in Bulacan and 25 in Manila.
“We need speedy justice machines, and ensure that we are strengthening our institutions like the courts, the police, the prosecutors. We need our people to believe in the justice system,” said Angara.
An ally of President Duterte, Angara said vigilante justice is not a systemic and long-term solution. He called it “shocking and worrisome.”
Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Justice committee, said his panel would investigate the killing of 17-year-old Delos Santos.
“We will investigate the killing of the 17-year-old; there’s evidence. We must be fair,” said Gordon.
He said the government could not fight the drug menace by just killing.
“You must go to the source,” he said.
Instead of killing street pushers, they should be arrested and made to give up their suppliers, Gordon said.
He said it was disconcerting that there are no witnesses who come out (in the killings) because probably they know that somehow the police are involved.
“There’s overkill in the drug war. Everything must be done in balance,” said Gordon, who also said he would advise the President, as a friend, to restrain himself.
“You think there’s a resurgence of killings because of the President’s pronouncements,” Gordon said.
But even in war, there are rules, he said.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said he would file a resolution to investigate the death of Delos Santos.
While he supports the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, Aquino said the government should rethink its strategy, saying the poor and helpless are casualties in this war while those involved in big drug cases are accorded due process.
In recent drug operations, 74 suspects were killed in Manila, Bulacan and in the Camanava (Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela) area.
Liberal Party president Senator Francis Pangilinan said the indiscriminate killing was not the solution to this problem, and pointed out that P6.4 billion worth of shabu had recently slipped past Customs.
“This is not justifiable. The everyday killings of the poor is not the solution,” said Pangilinan.
He added that drug addiction should be treated as a health issue related to poverty, and not just a police problem.
“Thirty-two were killed in Bulacan in just one day, 25 were killed in Manila, also in a day. One of those killed was Kian Loyd delos Santos, 17 years old, which was seen on a barangay CCTV while being dragged by two men going to the place where he was found dead,” said Pangilinan.
He said anybody could be dragged off by the police so they could reach their “quota” and get a monetary reward.
Senator JV Ejercito said he was worried that rogue police would abuse the war on drugs for their own purposes, knowing that the President has vowed to protect them.
He said one living proof of this abuse was police inspector Jovie Espenido, who showed “sheer arrogance” by warning suspected narco politicians that they will be next, after the Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and members of his family were killed in a police raid in Ozamiz City.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV described Duterte as a monster who craves killings and tries to justify them through lies, deception and twisted logic.
“I fervently pray for the day that Filipinos would finally wake up and realize it,” said Trillanes, who said Duterte had lied and deceived the public about how soon he could rid the country of illegal drugs.
But administration senators defended the President, saying that the recent smuggling of shabu from China indicated how entrenched the illegal drug trade had become.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III admitted that a drug-free Philippines is no longer possible, given the extent to which drug operations have grown.
“What we can try to achieve is drug-resistant Philippines,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he was disappointed with the deliberate attempt of the Department of Justice to be “less than transparent” on the number of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration’s bloody war against illegal drugs as he moved to defer the approval of its proposed budget for 2018.
“From the testimony, it is clear that over 4,000 have been killed in the drug operations and that was admitted by the secretary of Justice,” said Drilon.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said out of the more than 4,000 killings—3,050 legitimate police operations and over 1,000 vigilante killings, exactly 37 were being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation, out of which three were terminated and prosecution was recommended.
Based on the data of the Philippine National Police, Aguirre said “over a thousand” are victims of vigilante killings.
Out of the total estimated number of 4,000, he said the NBI is only handling 37 cases, seven of which happened in the National Capital Region, while the 30 others were from other regions.
At the Senate hearing, Aquino also questioned Aguirre about the resurgence of illegal drugs inside the National Bilibid Prison.
At the hearing, Bureau of Corrections officials said high-profile inmates involved in the illegal drug trade were allowed to transact business with their cohorts outside the prison as part of a sting operation.
But Aguirre questioned the wisdom of the operations, saying they may have caused the resurgence of the drug trade in the NBP.
The Palace on Friday defended the bloody campaign, saying the war on drugs was “not a reckless exercies of blood letting.”
“Again and again, we hear people say that it’s safer. They feel comfortable and in fact they appreciate that the Philippines is being made safe again,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters in a Palace news briefing.
While killings continue to take place, Abella said that the ongoing “shock and awe” operations being conducted seeks “is to degrade the community-based retail distribution network that will always fuel the drug trade, whoever is on top.”
“The norm is to address criminality. And this is simply a method, a particular way of doing things. But that’s not the endgame,” he said.
“The endgame is to make sure that corruption is addressed, criminality goes down, and that the demand for drugs is also reduced if not completely eradicated,” he added.
Simultaneous anti-drug operations in Bulacan, Manila and Camanava areas resulted in 74 deaths in the escalation of the bloody drug war in the past three days, after the President declared the country a “narco state.”
On Thursday, the President said he would not just pardon police officers who killed drug offenders during the anti-narcotics campaign, but also promote them.
The police, however, maintained that they killed only in self-defense.
The Palace played down the killing of the Grade 11 student Delos Santos as “an isolated case.”
“That incident, happily, I think is isolated,” Abella said.
When he came under fire for using the adverb happily, the Palace issued a statement saying he said “haply” which means by chance or by accident.
Abella also said while people worry about the deaths of drug suspects, they do not consider the killing of the innocent by criminals on drugs.
“I think it’s also quite alarming the fact that … when we did not face these things, that there was… violence all over the land. I mean, old women being raped, babies being raped,” Duterte’s spokesman said.
“I mean, it’s just about time that those who are in government and those who are in a position to do something about it should be able to address these matters and end these matters forcefully,” he added.
The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, said there were 12,000 actual victims of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.
In a press briefing, CHR Chairman Chito Gascon said the number was bigger than what the Philippine National Police reported.
“The picture is much larger. We get anecdotal reports that there were 12,000 deaths as of May 31,” he told reporters. “The actual number is certainly higher than what the government suggests.”
He vowed to fight the President’s bloody war on drugs.
The CHR has been documenting at least 600 cases of summary executions involving 800 victims, he said.
“We need to document the 800. That is not enough, but we have to start,” he said.
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