By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras
AN INTERNATIONAL human rights group is calling for an independent commission to investigate policemen who were allegedly involved in the killing of drug suspects after a police officer recently admitted that some policemen were responsible for many of the extrajudicial killings.
“The admission by a senior police official that police officers are working as hitmen for drug syndicates is yet more evidence of Philippine government complicity in ‘drug war’ killings,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement on Nov. 5.
On Oct. 31, Central Visayas Chief Supt. Debold Dinas said in an interview with Cebu Daily News that some of the hitmen responsible for extrajudicial killings were “most likely retired military or police officers or there are active police officers.”
Mr. Adams added, “Given the total failure of the police to stop these abuses, it’s clear that any serious investigation of the police role in the war on drugs needs full independence.”
The rights group suggested an independent commission to investigate such cases.
“Any proposed commission of inquiry should be completely independent from the Philippine National Police and the Office of the President. Its members should include investigators from the Commission on Human Rights and representatives of nongovernmental organizations with recognized expertise,” HRW’s statement read.
The group added: “Despite the calls for accountability, not one police officer or government official has been convicted for any of these killings. Instead, the Duterte administration has attacked critics of the drug war. The government jailed an outspoken senator, Leila de Lima, on spurious charges; falsely accused human rights groups of links to the drug trade; threatened journalists who report critically on the ‘drug war’; and, most recently, deported a long-time foreign resident for denouncing the government’s anti-drug campaign.”
“Duterte has made it clear over and over again that he wants drug dealers and users killed so there is no reason to think these are rogue operations. It’s time for an independent commission to be created to officially identify those responsible and begin the process of accountability for mass murder,” Mr. Adams said.
In response, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said, “The proposal by the Human Rights Watch for the creation of an independent commission to go after police officers allegedly involved in the killing of drug suspects smacks of another effort of this moribund group, which projects itself as a human rights organization, to intrude into our domestic affairs.”
He added, “The group’s latest effort to use media to resurrect an old issue clearly aims to undermine the integrity of the government’s institutional mechanisms. We need to correct the minds of our people from this misinformation that the group wants to propagate.”
Mr. Panelo also pointed out that the Philippine National Police’s Internal Affairs Service and the Commission on Human Rights as well as Congress are part of the government’s existing mechanism of inquiry into human rights abuses.
“These, among other governmental bodies engaged in counterbalancing measures, are functioning. We thus reiterate our position that we do not need schooling from outsiders on how to run the country,” he said.
By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras