CHR launches probe on deaths in Davao City’s ‘restarted’ drug war

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Mike J

Resurgence of the Davao Death Squad or vigilante justice?

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) office in Davao Region has initiated an investigation into the deaths that reportedly happened during the “restarted” drug war in Davao City after five suspects were killed in a span of 24 hours.

In a statement on Tuesday, CHR said that it was gravely concerned over Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte’s declaration that he will resume the drug war and noted that even arrested criminals have a fundamental right to life.

“The [CHR] expresses grave concern over the recent declaration of Davao City Mayor Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte’s war against drugs. Principal to the pursuit of truth and justice relies on the unconditional respect for every person’s most fundamental right — the right to life itself, even if they are arrested for an alleged criminal offense,” CHR said.

“According to published reports, five drug suspects have already been shot down in separate incidents over the course of 24 hours, two days after Mayor Baste declared a war on drugs. In accordance with our Constitutional mandate, CHR Region XI has launched an investigation concerning the alleged drug-related killings in the city,” it added.

CHR also said that it condemns the ‘alarming incidents of alleged extrajudicial killings’ that were associated with the anti-drug campaign, because if true, these may be considered grave rights violations.

“The Commission vehemently denounces the alarming incidents of alleged extrajudicial killings associated with the anti-drug campaign in Davao City, as these acts constitute grave violations of fundamental human rights, particularly the right to life and due process, and are in direct disregard to the principles of justice and the rule of law,” it noted.
Duterte — son of former President Rodrigo Duterte and brother of incumbent Vice President Sara Duterte — gave a warning to drug pushers to get out of his city during a recent public event.  After this, local papers have reported that several drug suspects have died in police operations days after the warning.

The Dutertes became national figures after their patriarch was catapulted into the presidency after a promise to rid the country of illegal drugs.  The former president’s drug war, which was a continuation of his policy when he was also Davao mayor, led to over 6,250 deaths in police operations.

However, activist groups have claimed that the true death toll during Duterte’s term from June 2016 to June 2022 may be anywhere between 12,000 to 30,000.  Several individuals, including relatives of drug war victims, have also filed cases against Duterte before the International Criminal Court for the crime against humanity of mass murder.

CHR said that it understands that the drug problem is still a cause for concern, but it should not be addressed by putting the law in someone’s hands.

“While the CHR recognizes the gravity of the drug problem in the country and the importance of anti-drug programs in addressing the issue with utmost urgency, we reiterate that putting the law in someone’s hands will not resolve the problem as it only perpetuates the culture of impunity, violence, fear, and threat,” CHR said.

“Using extrajudicial means undermines the rule of law and destroys faith in legal systems, ultimately hindering genuine efforts to address the root causes of drug-related problems in the country,” it added.

Instead of a violent approach, CHR said strategies that include upholding human rights principles would be best for the country’s fight against illegal drug use.

“In line with this, we acknowledge the importance of comprehensive and effective drug-abuse and trafficking prevention strategies. True advancement, however, can only be made by institutionalizing policies that uphold human rights principles and follow legal frameworks that no longer foster further violence, insecurity, and a culture of impunity,” CHR said.

“As duty-bearer, the State has an obligation to respect and protect the human rights of every citizen, in particular, victims of drug-related killings. This includes taking decisive action to conduct prompt and impartial investigation into these incidents and ensuring that those responsible for the killings related to the anti-drug campaign are held accountable, thereby attaining justice for the victims,” it added.

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2 hours ago, Mike J said:

Duterte — son of former President Rodrigo Duterte and brother of incumbent Vice President Sara Duterte — gave a warning to drug pushers to get out of his city during a recent public event.  After this, local papers have reported that several drug suspects have died in police operations days after the warning

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And since when have human rights here been a serious concern of the government? 

Edited by Gator
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Mike J

Follow up article.

MANILA, Philippines —  Seven police officers were relieved from their posts in connection with the deaths of drug suspects in alleged shootouts in Davao City after Mayor Sebastian Duterte declared a war on drugs in the city.

The administrative relief of the policemen came after Philippine National Police chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. ordered an investigation on the supposed armed encounters where seven drug suspects were killed in less than a week after Duterte’s declaration.

“Our chief PNP, through the regional director, gave orders to investigate these incidents and give way to an impartial investigation,” PNP public information officer Col. Jean Fajardo told a news briefing at Camp Crame yesterday.

The PNP Internal Affairs Service has also started its probe into the killings, Fajardo said.

Davao region police director Brig. Gen. Alden Delvo said the seven policemen were disarmed and would be subjected to paraffin testing.

Delvo did not rule out the possibility that more police officers will be relieved from their posts in the coming days.

“We will be investigating all personnel involved in the police operations,” he said in a text message.

The policemen must also explain why it was necessary for them to use their guns in neutralizing the drug suspects.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) had earlier expressed grave concern over Duterte’s statement patterned after his father, former president Rodrigo Duterte.

Fajardo said the PNP is open to an investigation by the CHR, stressing the police force will not hesitate to sanction police officers found to have killed drug suspects in cold blood.

She added that even the policemen’s supervisors could be held liable under the doctrine of command responsibility.

“Rest assured that all those accountable would be held liable, including their team leaders, supervisors and field commanders,” Fajardo said.

Since January, a total of 28 drug suspects were killed in alleged shootouts with policemen, while 424 were arrested.

Around 202 grams of shabu valued at P1.37 million and seven loose firearms were confiscated.

Doubled efforts
The Davao City Police Office (DCPO) has admitted to doubling their efforts to quash illegal drugs in the city after last week’s war on drugs pronouncement of Mayor Duterte.

“The pronouncement of the mayor has created a huge impact in our anti-drug operations and we are doubling our efforts to combat drugs,” DCPO spokesperson Capt. Hazel Tuazon said during Tuesday’s press conference.

She said the pronouncement of the mayor served as a standing order to DCPO. However, no extra funding is given to the police office to implement this order.

Tuazon said the war against drugs is not new to them, and added it is not easy for the police to kill drug suspects.

“We are not happy that there are suspects who chose to fight the police and get killed,” she said.

Since the mayor has declared a war on drugs, seven drug personalities, two of them high value individuals at city level, have been killed in police operations.

For her part, Police Region XI spokesperson Maj. Catherine dela Rey echoed the statement of Tuazon, saying that it causes extra hassle for them whenever a suspect dies.

“We have to face an investigation and explain whenever a suspect dies,” Dela Rey said.

The CHR has initiated an investigation into the reported drug-related killings, but Dela Ray said their office has not received any formal queries regarding this.

The families of the suspects are also welcome to file a complaint against the police if they suspect foul play, Tuazon said.

However, not one of the suspects’ families has filed a complaint since the war on drugs was declared by Mayor Duterte.

Tuazon also added that Oplan Tokhang, which was started during the term of then mayor Sara Duterte, sister of the current mayor, is still in effect.

She clarified that Oplan Tokhang does not involve threatening the drug users, but only asking them to stop using drugs.

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