WHEN the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights started its inquiry into the spate of extra judicial killings amid the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, an average of 35 drug suspects were killed daily. A month after, the number jumped to more than 40 a day.
Based on the records of the Philippine National Police (PNP), 3,338 drug suspects were killed from July 1, 2016 to September 22. Of this number, 1,198 died in police operations.
Of the total number of deaths, 2,140 were killed by unknown assailants, although the police have clarified that not all supposed vigilante-style killings could be linked to illegal drugs.
Despite the increase in the number of drug-related deaths, some members of the committee believe there is no reason to conclude that the killings were tolerated by the police.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, said he also saw no reason to suspect that the unexplained killings were state-sponsored.
Still, Lacson said there was a need to improve the recruitment process of the PNP since most of the police personnel involved in the illegal drug trade were young officers.
Based on the records of the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service, 196 commissioned police
officers and 210 non-commissioned police officers were being investigated for various offenses.
It was Sen. Leila de Lima who filed Senate Resolution 9 that sought to investigate, in aid of legislation, the alleged summary executions of suspected drug peddlers.
De Lima, former head of the Commission on Human Rights, sought the probe because she feared the fight against crime and illegal-drugs was becoming a “looming state-sanctioned cover for a policy of summary executions and extrajudicial killings of any and all suspected criminals.”
She added that extrajudicial killings, whether perpetrated by the state or by civilians, must stop because they blatantly disregard human life.
“It is for these reasons that we hold this Senate inquiry in aid of legislation to address the rampant summary executions of alleged drug suspects,” the senator said.
De Lima, who initially headed the Senate justice committee but was later booted out by her colleagues, presented two witnesses who narrated to the committee how police officers “abused” their relatives who were accused of being involved in the illegal drug trade.
They were Harra Kazuo, 26, wife of suspected drug dealer JP Bertes who was allegedly killed along with his father Renato Bertes by Pasay City police inside a police station; and Mary Rose Aquino, 23, oldest daughter of suspected drug dealers Rodelio and Rosalie Campos who were allegedly killed by Antipolo City policemen.
PNP chief Ronald Dela Rosa immediately ordered the relief of the policemen involved.
De la Rosa assured the senators that the PNP does not condone extrajudicial killings.
“The PNP’s stand against extrajudicial killings is uncompromising. I have previously mentioned that these killings are perpetrated by various syndicate groups involved in illegal drugs,” the PNP chief said.
He said the PNP would remain loyal to its sworn mandate to serve and protect the Filipino people in accordance with the rule of law.
Police officials maintained that contrary to allegations that authorities were not doing anything about the unexplained killings, the PNP had solved dozens of such cases.
According to the PNP, 1,971 killings allegedly perpetrated by vigilantes were being investigated. The PNP has filed 311 cases, of which 197 were considered solved.
The remaining 114 cases were considered cleared, as the cases had been filed but the suspects remained at large.
But for Sen. Richard Gordon, the unexplained killings, use of placards on suspected drug pushers, and killings perpetrated by “riding-in-tandem” gunmen were not new.
“In the early days of the previous administration, there were houses being painted saying ‘This is a house of a drug pusher!’ and placards saying ‘I am a drug pusher’ are also placed around criminals. To be fair to the public, this is nothing new,” said Gordon, the new chairman of the Senate justice committee.
“People are killed and I don’t hear any solution to these cases. This has been occurring long before this administration,” Gordon said.