MANILA, Philippines — Opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives joined the mounting uproar over extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs reignited by the killing of senior high school student Kian Lloyd delos Santos of Caloocan City.
The death of Delos Santos, a senior high school student, stirred outrage after witnesses and closed circuit television footage tended to indicate he was murdered in cold blood and not in a shootout as police claim, the gun authorities insist he was armed with was suspected to have been planted.
Caloocan Representative Edgar Erice said the “spate of killings not only in my city is very alarming that it has now become a responsibility of everyone to speak out” as he accused the police of “terrorizing communities by violating each and every provision of the rules of engagements.”
“Planting of evidence is now the rule of the game,” he added as he called on the church and media “to actively help in exposing abuses.”
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman called on President Rodrigo Duterte to immediately create an “independent fact-finding commission” similar to the Agrava Commission created by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to investigate the assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., and the Feliciano and Melo Commissions of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the first to look into the Oakwood mutiny, the second into human rights violations.
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat also called for an investigation, but by the House, even if, “hindi pinapansin ang ating mga naunang (they ignored our previous) resolution calling for (an) inquiry on EJKs.”
“Kinakailangan puwersahin pa rin natin ang House na magpaimbestiga para maipahiwatig sa Kapulisan at sa Administrasyon na pangsamantalang itigil muna itong Tokhang ops at panagutan ang mga nagkasalang mga autoridad (We need to pressure the House to investigate and send a signal to the police and administration to suspend Tokhang operations and make erring authorities accountable),” he added.
Illustrating the arbitrary nature of killings the police claim happen during “legitimate” anti-drug operations, Akbayan party-list Representative Tom Villarin said among the more than 80 lives lost this week alone was Jake Gueraldo, 25, also of Caloocan, a member of Akbayan Youth and the community-based Teatro Balangay, who the lawmaker said “was shot while taking a bath” although police recorded it as a case of “nanlaban (fought back).”
“This has to stop. Naging sanayan na lang ang pumatay. Parang bale wala na ang buhay ng tao (Killing has become so common. Human life has lost its value). Our police (have) turned into butchers,” he said.
“We are turning into a nation of murderers and that we must stop! Hindi ganito ang Filipino (The Filipino is not like this)!” he added.
Detailing his proposal for an independent probe, Lagman said the commission “should be composed of retired justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals of proven probity” because the police “cannot be entrusted with the investigation” and “the leadership of the Department of Justice is a partisan ally of the President.”
“Moreover, the inquiry must not be left to politicians whose motives could be suspect despite their avowal of impartiality,” he added.
Congress is controlled by a pro-administration “super majority” largely composed of lawmakers who flocked to Duterte after he won the presidency.
Lagman said the commission he proposes “must be authorized to perform the following:
- Conduct an investigation on the causes, motives and rewards for the extrajudicial killings.
- Find out the total number of victims of summary killings both by the police authorities and vigilante groups since the start of the anti-drug campaign in 2016.
- Determine the collusion between the police authorities and vigilantes.
- Inquire on how many of the victims belong to the poor, vulnerable and marginalized sectors.
- Establish how many of the killings are subject to current investigations by the police authorities and other government agencies.
- Recommend the prosecution of errant police officers and personnel and private parties.
- Recommend viable policies and alternatives to solve the drug problem as poverty and health issues other than a mere police matter.”