The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Saturday called on the families of victims of extra-judicial killings in Davao City to come out and cooperate with the commission as it starts its investigation into the claims of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte that he has killed a number of persons.
“If there are victims, or relatives of victims, who know these circumstances, we want them to come forward and we will give them as much protection as we can so that we can go to the bottom of this,” CHR Chairman Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon said on Saturday.
“Right now we need to identify evidence. What we are talking about here is what we call corpus delicti, for fact-finding. We will need forensics, law enforcement, the National Bureau of Investigation, so there will be balance and independence,” he added.
Gascon on Saturday said his office will investigate claims that he has killed more than a thousand criminals in Davao City during his reign.
“We are really concerned about these statements and we have to get to the bottom of this. If in fact there have been violations of human rights and killings committed, every single killing, every extra-judicial killing must be formally investigated and the persons who perpetrate them must be hold to account,” the CHR chief told reporters.
He noted that public officials, before they assume office, take an oath to “uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land.”
“He (Duterte) has the duty to uphold the laws of the land. If there is a public admission that he has killed people, we want to know the truth. So kailangan po ng imbestigasyon, yun po ang aming panama, dapat magkaroon ng malawakang imbestigasyon (So there has to be an investigation, there must be a thorough investigation,” Gascon said.
“Aalamin namin kung may mga reports na dumating na killings particularly in Davao. Ang purpose po nito ay makita kung merong facts on the ground that relate to the statements said publicly by Mayor Duterte (We willfind out if there are reports on killings in Davao. The purpose of this is to determine if there are facts on the ground that relate to the statements made by mayor Duterte). We will call the DOJ to fully investigate and prosecute,” Gascon added.
But he stressed that the CHR does not have prosecutorial powers, thus it will have to depend on the Justice department when it comes to filing of cases.
“The filing of cases depends on the circumstances. We will still defer to the DOJ. Ang amin lang ay alamin kung may nangyari talagang killings (Our task is to find out if there were indeed killings). We still need to uncover the facts,” Gascon said.
At the same time, he proposed that all political candidates should sign a commitment to uphold human rights.
“Sa panahon ng eleksyon ay dapat pumirma sila ng commitment and sana po maging si Mayor Duterte ay pumirma na papahalagahan nila ang karapatan pang tao (For the upcoming elections, they should sign a commitment and I hope mayor Duterte will be among those who will promise to protect human rights),” Gascon said.