WATCH | Gordon panel: No proof of EJK, DDS in war on drugs under Duterte
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MANILA – Eleven members of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights subscribed to its findings that there was no proof of State-sponsored extra-judicial killings in the war on drugs initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte since he took office in June.
This was contained in Committee Report No. 18 issued by the panel, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, which held the joint inquiry with the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson. Six hearings were conducted on the EJKs.
The Gordon committee report said, “there is no evidence sufficient to prove that a Davao Death Squad exists.”
The report, however, had early on drawn flak from a member of the Justice committee, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who said it smacked of a whitewash of the EJKs despite the testimonies presented during the hearings.
In the 19-page summary of the panel report, Gordon said, “There is no proof that there is a state-sponsored policy to commit killings to eradicate illegal drugs in the country.
“However, the Committee took note of the many thousands of killings with impunity taking place every year in the last two decades at least.”
Gordon noted that “many killings with impunity through the years up to the present have not been resolved by the police, leaving our people feeling unprotected, insecure, fearful, and cynical about the ability of the police to protect and serve them.”
The report pointed to "an urgent need to undertake reforms in law enforcement and strengthen the criminal justice system to fortify the rule of law.”
Aside from Gordon and Lacson, among those who signed the committee report are Senators Gregorio Honasan III, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Loren Legarda, Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, Nancy Binay, Manny Pacquiao, Alan Peter Cayetano including ex-officio members, Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.
Those who did not sign or are not in favor of the findings are Senators Leila De Lima, JV Ejercito, Antonio Trillanes IV and Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto.
Senator Grace Poe was unable to act on the report since she is on official business as delegate of the Philippine Senate to the fourth Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit in Paris, France from Dec. 7-9.
Excessive, unabated killings
While the panel found no proof of State-sponsored killings, Gordon recognized that "excessive and unabated killings" have been going on for the last two decades at least under different names, such as “extra-judicial killings,” “cardboard justice,” “motorcycle riding-in-tandem,” “vigilante killings,” and “salvaging,” among others.
Gordon cited data that under the current administration, from July 2016 to early part of October, a total of 4, 248 killings have been reported in the country, or an average of 1,416 killings per month or 47 per day.
“If this average is maintained, then the killings from October to December would be another 4, 248 killings or an estimated total of 8,496 killings from July to December 2016,” Gordon said.
“Is this number unique to the Duterte administration? The committee asked the police to submit reports for the number of killings over the past 15 years, as well as perused media reports,” Gordon said.
For the year 2001 to 2009, under the Arroyo administration, a total of 91,762 killings were reported or an average of 10,196 killings per year, 850 killings per month or 28 killings per day.
For the years 2010 to 2016, under the Aquino administration, there were 85,878 recorded killings or an average 14,313 killings per year, 1,193 killings per month or 40 killings per day.
“Based on the evidence presented before the Committee, there is no sufficient evidence to serve as basis for State-sponsored killings,” the report said.
'DDS does not exist'
Meanwhile, the Gordon panel concluded that despite the testimony of confessed hitman Edgar Matobato presented by De Lima and Trillanes during the hearings, evidence presented to prove the existence of a Davao Death Squad (DDS) was not enough.
“Or that then Mayor Duterte was responsible for those deaths purportedly committed by a Davao Death Squad,” the panel report said.
Several members of the Davao City Police, acting and retired, had been summoned by the senators upon being tagged by Matobato.
The report said Matobato’s testimonies were full of inconsistencies and contradictions.
“For example, he alleged that he was a member of Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and Civilian Home Defense Unit (CHDF), but they have no records of him as member.
Killings with impunity
The Gordon panel said that over and above the objective of the investigation, it behooves the Committee to take stock not only of the current drug menace and the so many killings associated with it, “but also the unabated killings that have been going on through the years up to the present without resolution and closure.”
“The common denominator is that there is no justice because there is no resolution or closure of these cases,” the panel report said.
Administrations have come and gone, but the injustice inflicted upon the people as a result of the unresolved killings continues, said the report.
“So, it is not surprising to note that the basic principle of the social contract – where the people have empowered the government and its agents to protect society against those who threaten their rights – has been broken,” the report said.
Primarily, the Committee’s task is to recommend policies and legislation to put a stop to the unabated killings and to shake off the lack of urgency and apathy to address this grave problem on the part of the police, the government, and the people.
“The police must be held accountable,” it said.
The panel recommended the following:
1. Amend Republic Act No. 8551 to enable the Internal Affairs Service to act swiftly on investigations of police personnel, and to strengthen disciplinary mechanisms, such as the People’s Law Enforcement Board (PLEB).
2. Create and designate Special Criminal Courts for erring and abusive police, alongside illegal drugs courts.
3. Create a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee to monitor killings and paramilitary units
4. Take a bite out of crime through better crime-fighting strategies
The panel had a word of caution to the President. “While there is no doubt that he has the country’s best interests at heart when he waged his war against illegal drugs and criminality, his ways and methodology may not be readily understood and acceptable to all.”
The President thus should "seek to epitomize a man of the law, and be an exemplary role model. All Presidents must be role models in word and in deed. Leaders raise the values and performance of a people," said the report.
“The war against illegal drugs must be won within the legal system, and the President must lead in reminding the people of this important message,” the report said.
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