PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte needs to be mindful of his role as head of state and avoid making “inappropriate” statements to enforce his all-out war against illegal drugs lest they be construed as government policies.
This is one of the recommendations contained in the 100-page panel report of Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, who led the investigation into the unabated extrajudicial killings (EJKs) of suspected drug dealers and drug users.
Duterte, shortly after assuming the presidency, had warned that he “will kill” drug traffickers. Just recently he “advised” drug peddlers and drug addicts to “lock themselves” in their homes or else he will kill them. He also vowed to “exonerate” policemen who would be linked to EJKs because he said they were just doing their job to run after drug dealers.
“Although the committee did not find that President Duterte authorized recent and rampant killings,” Gordon nevertheless found it necessary to advise him that “while he has the country’s best interest at heart when he waged the war against illegal drugs and criminality, Duterte should seek to epitomize a man of the law, and be an exemplary role model.”
He said that there had been accusations of “tolerance” hurled against the President because of the “overwhelming support he gives to the police, manifested by his colorful language against drug pushers.”
“This may be perceived as a condonation of the violations of human rights and due process that the police are committing, in the guise of putting an end to the drug menace,” he said.
Gordon also warned that the immutable and universal principles that respect human rights must be instituted in law enforcement.
“Thus, the police and other law enforcement officers, through Project ‘Tokhang’ or any similar program, must be admonished and refrained from urging ‘surrenderees’ to sign ‘voluntary surrender certificates’ in violation of their constitutional rights, particularly the rights of the accused,” he said.
Gordon said that while proving that there have been thousands of killings with impunity taking place every year in the country over at least the past 20 years, the Senate inquiry showed that there is “no evidence to show that there is a State-sponsored policy to commit killings in the eradication of illegal drugs.”
He said it is time for the government to immediately move to “vigorously investigate” and report also immediately on the results of the investigation since the absence of clear and quick action to resolve such killings has resulted in “an apathetic, passive, and indifferent citizenry who blames the government for such inaction.”
Gordon said the police, who are in charge of crime prevention and law enforcement, “seem to be in total disregard of the need to continuously improve the solution rate for killings.”
“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,” he said.
“There is an urgent need to undertake reforms in law enforcement and strengthen the criminal justice system to fortify the rule of law,” he added.
Gordon also concluded that the evidence presented to the committee during the public hearings failed to prove the existence of the Davao Death Squad, much less provide “a direct link to President Rodrigo Duterte, then Davao City mayor.”
Ten panel members signed Committee Report No. 18 while five others did not sign it. Of those who signed the CRN 18, three expressed some reservations, namely Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Franklin Drilon and Francis Pangilinan.
Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito, Leila de Lima, Ralph Recto, and Antonio Trillanes IV did not sign CRN 18. Sen. Grace Poe was not able to read the report because she is in France on official business.
The others who ”totally” approved CRN 18 were Senators Panfilo Lacson, Gregorio Honasan II, Loren Legarda, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Nancy Binay, Manny Pacquiao, Vicente Sotto III, and Gordon.