THERE are no state-sponsored killings in the Philippines, the Palace told the Senate Friday after seven pro-administration senators released their own resolution condemning the spate of deaths of minors in the government’s war on illegal drugs.
Reacting to the resolution, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said that several Senate committees themselves had concluded there were no state-sponsored killings.
“The Executive shares the expressed concern of the Senate on the recent spate of drug-related deaths and similarly condemns extrajudicial killings,” he added.
Abella said the Palace welcomes the Senate’s investigations and inquiries on erring police personnel, “as a manifestation of a freely functioning and democratic state mechanism.”
Seven administration senators—Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Manny Pacquiao, Richard Gordon, Vicente Sotto III, Cynthia Villar, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Gregorio Honasan—filed Senate Resolution 518 “condemning in the strongest sense the extrajudicial killings,” after they were bashed on social media for not signing an earlier, similar resolution.
The senators said the criticism was unjustified, since none of them had been asked to sign the earlier resolution.
Liberal Party president Senator Francis Pangilinan said Friday there was no attempt to exclude the pro-administration senators.
Pangilinan noted that before the resolution was filed on Monday and read on the Senate floor on Tuesday, his office made the document publicly accessible by posting it on the Senate website and also emailed it to the official addresses of Sotto, Gordon, Honasan, Villar, and Zubiri on Sept. 21.
He said Gordon even acknowledged the receipt of e-mail on the same day.
“This was done to inform them about the resolution and to show the number of signatures, and to ask them if they wanted to sponsor it,” Pangilinan said.
“Clearly there was no attempt to keep or withhold the resolution from the seven senators. The Senate rules were followed,” he added.
Except for Honasan, the six other senators complained they were criticized unfairly for being “Malacañang dogs in the Senate.”
They took their dismay to the Senafe floor and accused their colleagues of putting them in a “bad light” and destroying their names and reputation after they also became the subject of attacks on social media.
Villar said she igot the information that two senators– Paolo Benigo Aquino IV of the Liberal Party and Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan were out to destroy them, but she initially refused to believe this.
Villar said she would not have declined to sign the resolution if it were presented to her.
Sotto, too, insisted he never saw the resolution.
Also on Friday, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said one way to fight crime and keep communities safe is through “extra-judicial funding,” which will modernize courts and equip public attorneys and prosecutors with the resources that will reduce case backlogs and move the wheels of justice quickly.
Recto said “manpower and material” lack in the judiciary and in the Department of Justice should be addressed “if we want to bolster the rule of law, which is now being threatened by people and institutions tempted to embrace illegal means in seeking justice.”
He said the fast disposition of cases will also prevent congested jails from turning “into corporate headquarters of crime syndicates and as masteral schools for their members.”
“And because it now costs taxpayers about P82,000 to house, feed, and guard one inmate a year, a higher case resolution rate will result in huge savings which can be spent for social services,” he said.
He cited the backbreaking caseloads of Justice department prosecutors and public attorneys “as the best arguments on why their offices should be given a budgetary raise.”
“One prosecutor handles about 403 criminal cases. He or she attends to three court hearings a day, in addition to preliminary investigations, retrials, witness deposition, mediation, among others,” he said.
A public attorney, on the other hand, assists some 5,237 clients a year, and, at any given time, has 504 cases in court.
“All of them lack computers, paralegals, law books and comfortable offices. Most use their own computers and often use their own money to reproduce the briefs they have prepared,” Recto said.
While there are 1,657 vacant prosecutorial posts, and the present number of 1,668 Public Attorney’s Office lawyers is below the authorized ceiling. “There are no takers because of the low pay for the hard labor, and the only bonus one gets are ‘unli’ death threats,” Recto said.
Courts are not faring well either in their running battle against the lack of resources, Recto said.
“Courts literally grapple with mountains of paperwork. Far from being magisterial, many courthouses now have the look and smell of an old bodega de papel,” he said.