MALACAÑANG on Wednesday assured the public President Rodrigo Duterte is looking into the spate of extrajudicial killings involving alleged drug suspects.
Speaking to reporters, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte is “aware” of these killings and is in touch with law enforcement agencies.
“He is actually in touch with the hierarchy of authority and he communicates exactly where he stands. He is ensuring the process is duly carried out by being personally in touch with those in charge,” Abella said in a new conference.
Abella issued the statement after Sen. Leila de Lima filed a resolution to investigate the killing of drug suspects nationwide.
De Lima, in her first privilege speech as senator on Tuesday, blasted the Duterte administration’s “do-it-yourself justice system” and for portraying her as a coddler of drug lords.
President Duterte himself welcomed a possible Senate probe on extrajudicial killings.
In a speech in Malacañang, Duterte said de Lima could go ahead and investigate.
“I do not blame Senator de Lima, it’s her job,” Duterte said.
Two Senate committees, including the justice and human rights committee chaired by de Lima, are scheduled to conduct the investigation in mid-August.
Based on reports, there have been 771 drug-related fatalities from May 10 to August 2.
Of the total number, 472 were killed during police operations, while 227 were killed by unidentified gunmen. At least 71 were victims of summary executions.
But some senators were not convinced of the need to investigate the Philippine National Police (PNP) on suspicion that several drug-related killings were the result of summary executions in the guise of legitimate police work.
Senator Panfilo Lacson cited the failure of the de Lima to present in her privilege speech on Tuesday specific instances that would indicate the involvement of police in summary executions.
“Instead, she (de Lima) made sweeping statements. So I will maintain my position that there should be a presumption of regularity in the performance of duties of our police,” Lacson said.
Senator Richard Gordon, head of the Blue Ribbon Committee, said a Senate investigation could be premature. “When we accuse the police of something, we must be ready to present the evidence,” he added.
He maintained that the internal affairs service of the PNP, not the Senate, should conduct the investigation.
Lacson however said he wants the Senate to look into the alleged summary executions carried out by vigilante groups.
The lawmaker said he had received information that the PNP had recorded a total of 600 summary killings for the month of July alone.
He said the police could be accused of tolerating these killings if they failed to act on the cases.
“Whether they (police) like it or not, that would be the perception. At the very least they are tolerating it and worst, they are sponsoring it,” Lacson said.