“The madness must stop. Quick fix savagery and abuse of power by law enforcers supposedly to quell criminality and drugs, which, wittingly or unwittingly, directly or indirectly, are encouraged, condoned or sanctioned, is a frankenstein that will haunt us all over time.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Human rights organizations and advocates are calling for a stop to the string of killings by police of suspects allegedly involved in illegal drug trade and use.
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers secretary general Edre Olalia said their group sees no conflict in going after the drug menace and stopping the killings of alleged street drug users or petty drug lords, whose deaths were “sudden, too contrived, and predictable.”
In its investigative report, ABS-CBN news revealed that from May 10 to July 11, at least 311 have been killed in Duterte’s campaign against drugs, 224 of whom were killed during police operations, and 87 by unidentified assailants.
Policemen consistently reasoned out that those killed tried to resist arrest and shot it out with law enforcers, or if already arrested, tried to grab a gun and were killed in the process.
“The madness must stop. Quick fix savagery and abuse of power by law enforcers supposedly to quell criminality and drugs, which, wittingly or unwittingly, directly or indirectly, are encouraged, condoned or sanctioned, is a frankenstein that will haunt us all over time. The cure may turn out to be worse than the illness,” Olalia added.
The former Davao City mayor won the presidency with a promise to put an end to the drug menace in the country. During his campaign, he had warned of a “bloody presidency” in the fight against drugs. In his inauguration speech, however, Duterte stressed his “adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising.”
Another human rights lawyer, Manuel Diokno, chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group, said Duterte’s war against crime has resulted to an explosion of violence that is “spiraling out of control.”
Calls for independent, credible probe
Calls for a senate probe regarding the spate of drug-related deaths and killings, which is being pushed by former justice secretary and now Sen. Leila de Lima, were dismissed as a mere “legal harassment” by Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa. The police chief, on the other hand, said he will not tolerate vigilantism.
Solicitor general Jose Calida, for his part, said he would not allow anybody to derail Duterte’s effort against drugs and promised to defend policemen who may be summoned to the senate hearing.
Apart from De Lima, the New York-based Human Rights Watch also called for an independent and credible inquiry in police killings and its findings made public.
“The spike in killings of drug suspects places an extra burden on the administration to ensure the police act within the law. The government, starting with Duterte, should loudly make clear that the police need to respect the rights and protections of all criminal suspects all the time,” Phelim Kine, HRW deputy director, said.
Another human rights group, Karapatan, expressed alarm on the killings of drug suspects.
“The Duterte administration, while going after the generals and big fish of the narcotic trade, should also make the lives of the poor less vulnerable to easy money, which the drug trade offers,” the human rights group Karapatan said in its recent statement as it reiterated its stand against summary killings.
Karapatan also urged Duterte not to involve the Armed Forces of the Philippines with its anti-drugs campaign due to its bloody human rights record, “lest it becomes a justification for conducting counter-insurgency operations.”