Senate panels say evidence lacking Duterte backs summary executions
There is no sufficient evidence that President Rodrigo Duterte sponsored summary executions of drug traffickers and users in his goal to eradicate illegal drugs in the country.
This was the conclusion of the Senate committees on justice and human rights, and public order and dangerous drugs, which conducted several hearings on some cases of extra-judicial killings which happened during Duterte's administration.
"None of the witnesses were able to sufficiently prove that there is State-sponsored policy or order from the current administration to commit extra-judicial killings or summary killings to eradicate illegal drugs or even other crimes in the country," the report's
19-page executive summary said.
"There is no proof that there is State-sponsored policy to commit killings to eradicate illegal drugs in the country," it added.
“The war against illegal drugs must be won within the legal system and the President must lead in reminding people of this important message,” the report said.
The Senate panels also have harsh words for the Philippine police's anti-drug offensive called Oplan Tokhang which violates human rights based on their investigation and should be admonished.
The report says police telling drug surrenders to sign "voluntary surrender certificates" is a violation of a person's Constitutional rights.
Sought for comment, Philippine National Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa said they would stop if Oplan Tokhang is declared unconstitutional.
"But if they say stop your war on drugs and let the drug menace continue, I will have to think about it first," Dela Rosa said in a news briefing in Camp Crame.
The first hearings were presided by Duterte’s critic, Senator Leila de Lima. But, she was ousted by her colleagues for allegedly showing bias against the president. Senator Richard Gordon replaced her with Senator Panfilo Lacson as co-chairman.
While there were indeed cases of unabated and vigilante killings in the first months of Duterte's administration, there is no direct evidence which could link him to these executions.
The report found summary executions have been going on for the last two decades, well before Duterte took office on June 30.
It said from July to October of the Duterte administration, 4,248 killings have been reported nationwide, or an average of 1,416 deaths a month and 47 killings in a day.
"If this monthly average is maintained, then the killings from October to December would be another 4,248 killings or an estimated total of 8,496 killings from July to December 2016."
When compared to the administration of Duterte's predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, 85,878 killings were recorded from 2010 to 2016, an average of 14,313 cases per year, 1,193 every month and 40 killings a day.
Under the term of ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, 91,762 deaths were recorded from 2001 to 2009, an average of 10,196 killing a year, 850 a month and 28 every day.
Duterte won on a campaign platform of eradicating drugs and criminality, winning the 2016 elections via landslide.
He has made bombastic statements, ordering the country's police and military to kill suspected drug pushers . But he later qualified this by saying law enforcers may shoot these drug suspects if they put up a fight.
The senators advised Duterte to be more careful with his words as any statements coming from him are considered as government policies.
"The President needs to be mindful of his role as head of State and be careful with his words, avoid inappropriate statements lest they be construed as policies of the State," the report said.
"There may also be accusations of tolerance hurled against him because of the overwhelming support he gives to the police, manifested by his colorful language against drug pushers, may be perceived as a condonation of the violations of human rights and due process that the police are committing, in the guise of putting an end to the drug
menace." Emmanuel Tupas/DMS