DEPUTY Director Rolando E. Asuncion of the Bureau of Corrections has resigned after he was asked to go on leave pending investigation on his alleged involvement on illegal drug transactions inside the New Bilibid Prison.
Asuncion, a retired police chief superintendent, revealed that he decided to quit instead of taking a leave of absence because he wanted to leave BuCor with a clear conscience.
“I decided to resign rather than they destroy me,” Asunion told reporters.
He said BuCor Director Benjamin delos Santos told him to take a leave of absence upon orders of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, following information that he allegedly received money from drug lords inside the prison and that he accepted a car from a high-profile inmate.
“These allegations are not true,” said Asuncion.
“I just would like you to know, sir that I will leave BuCor with a clear conscience and it is my wish for you to have the same pride and posture when your time as secretary of Justice ends,” Asuncion said in a resignation letter to Aguirre.
Despite his decision, the BuCor official welcomed any investigation that will be conducted against him.
When sought for comment, Aguirre denied that he ordered an investigation against Asuncion.
“As of this moment, there is no pending investigation against Deputy Director Asuncion. We have just received a copy of his resignation but it is the Office of the President who will act on it,” Aguirre said, in a text message to reporters.
Asuncion assumed office as BuCor officer-in-charge last July 19. He continued with the series of raids in the NBP, which resulted in the seizure of cash, drugs and firearms.
Also on Friday, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno told the Philippine National Police to hew closely to the rule of law, after allegations that police were using the drug war as an excuse to pursue personal veendettas.
“I also prod PNP to ensure that [Oplan] Tokhang is not used or abused by policemen for their personal interests or some sort of vendetta against their enemies. Let us make sure that Tokhang is implemented for the sole purpose that it was conceived, and that is to round up drug personalities and other criminals,” Sueno said.
Critics of the Duterte administration’s ‘knock and plead’ strategy stressed that although a suspect may quite possibly be guilty, they should not be condemned outright and get killed by the police on the excuse that they were evading law enforcement.
Communist rebels in December also accused government forces of going after activists under the guise of the President’s door-to-door campaign to flush out drug addicts.
An international human rights watchdog on Friday scored the Duterte administration for making the act of extrajudicial killings “normal” in the face of its declared war on illegal drugs.
“In the Philippines--which already ranks as the most dangerous country in Asia for [human rights defenders]--President Rodrigo Duterte normalized the act of extrajudicial killing in his war on drugs, lowering the political cost of murder and thus raising the risk to defenders whose work threatens powerful interests,” the international group Front Line Defenders said in its Annual Report on Human Rights Defenders at Risk in 2016.
The group’s executive director, Andrew Anderson, demanded “an urgent and systematic response” from six countries, including the Philippines, for the killings of human rights defenders.
“This report honors the hundreds of defenders killed in 2016. We mourn their loss and celebrate their lives and achievements. Each and every peaceful HRD killed is an outrage. The scale of the killings in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the Philippines is a bloody indictment of the governments concerned; it demands an urgent and systematic response,” Anderson said.
The report released this week said that at least 31 human rights defenders (HRDs) in the Philippines were murdered in 2016. The group also reported 31 deaths in 2015.
“By calling for the extrajudicial killing of those involved in the drug trade, President Duterte has helped create an environment where murder is being promoted as an acceptable method of dealing with certain problems,” the report read.
The group also raised the alarm over the President’s threats to kill human rights advocates in the Philippines for criticizing his war on the illegal drug menace.
The group pointed out that the President’s threat “is liable to have a profound impact on the security of HRDs who are already at grave risk.”
According to the group, many attacks in 2016 targeted indigenous or environmental rights HRDs in the Philippines who are opposed to extractive or polluting industries.
The report singled out indigenous peoples’ rights defender Teresita Navacilla, who was shot dead by two unidentified armed men in Southern Mindanao.
“The attack was alleged to have been perpetrated by soldiers assigned to secure a mining project that the [woman human rights defender] campaigned against on environmental grounds. There was no progress in the investigation into her murder,” the report said.
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