By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — “Nakakagigil, nakakagalit (It is frustrating, enraging)!”
This was the reaction of a grieving mother, who lost her two sons to President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called war-on-drugs, when the Commission on Human Rights acknowledged that in handling drug suspects, there was an “intent to kill” on the part of the police.
Llore Benedicto claims that the killings would not have happened if Duterte did not embolden the police to kill those he calls the “salot” (plague) of society.
In May 11, 2017, Benedicto’s sons, Crisanto and Juan Carlo, were killed in a police operation, apparently because they fought back, according to the police.
The initial report of an investigation conducted by the CHR, however, revealed that in handling drug suspects, the police had the “intent to kill,” using “excess, unreasonable” force against them.
In a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, the CHR said that they investigated almost 3,300 extrajudicial killings resulting from police operations and vigilante killings in Metro Manila, and Central and Southern Luzon. The investigation covered incidents from May 2016 to March 2021.
The report revealed that 1,912 of the killings happened during police operations, while 1,382 were by unidentified assailants. The highest casualties, accordingly, are from buy-bust operations and from the service of search or arrest warrants.
CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel Gana claimed in the report that nearly all of the cases showed “several circumstances and evidence that showed possible abuse of strength and intent to kill,” with many victims showing bullet wounds in the abdomen, torso, and the head.
The findings of the CHR, according to the report, was based on affidavits or statements of relatives of the victims, and police and autopsy reports.
“This only proves that the ‘nanlaban’ (fight back) narrative of the police is a lie,” Benedicto lamented adding that the autopsy of the bodies of his sons revealed that the perpetrators made sure that his sons were killed.
The autopsy, Benedicto added, also showed torture marks and multiple gunshot wounds in the back and the head.
“(In this situation) how can they fight back?” she asked.
This is not the first time for a government body to reveal that there is foul-play with regards to handling suspects of drug-related cases. In December last year, the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor said that based on information they have received and studied, there is a “reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity, of murder, torture and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm as other inhumane Acts were committed.”
In 2018, Benedicto, together with surviving family members of those killed by Duterte’s illegal drugs campaign, filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court.
Meanwhile in February, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also said during the high-level meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council that police failed to follow protocol in its anti-drug operations where suspects were killed after allegedly resisting arrest.
With the CHR findings, she expressed her gratitude for their effort to seek truth and justice for their slain loved-ones. She encourages the relatives of those killed in Duterte’s drug war to come forward and file charges against the perpetrators.
She hopes that the ICC would be given permission to enter the country so that they could investigate the cases in order for justice to finally be attained.
Meanwhile, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement that “The recent CHR report on the drug war and its impacts on civil and political rights should help inform the actions of the Philippine government in putting a stop to the policy of extrajudicial killings in its anti-narcotics campaign.”