By: Marites Toledo
THE series of killings in the country since Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte took office last June is not new, according to the report of two Senate committees.
In fact, the Committee Report No. 18 issued by Senate Justice Committee and Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs stressed that the killings since June were not sponsored by the government.
The report showed that since July 2016 to early part of October, a total of 4, 248 killings have been reported in the country.
That is an average of 1,416 killings per month, or 47 per day.
According to Sen. Richard Gordon, “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.”
In the 19-page summary of the panel report, Gordon strongly argued that “There is no proof that there is a state-sponsored policy to commit killings to eradicate illegal drugs in the country.
Meaning, the Duterte administration has not issued a policy saying the President has ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP), or any other law enforcement agency, to intentionally kill the drug-connected people.
The public pronouncements of Duterte were not categorically concluded in the report as bases of state-sponsored murder on people involved in drug trafficking.
Gordon was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice, while Sen. Panfilo Lacson is the head of the Senate Committee on Public Oder and Dangerous Drugs.
Aside from Gordon and Lacson, the nine other senators who signed the committee report are Senators Gregorio Honasan III, Francis Pangilinan, Loren Legarda, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Nancy Binay, Manny Pacquiao, Alan Peter Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, and Vicente Sotto III.
Pangilinan signed with questions on some statements.
Drilon signed with reservations on some points.
Senator Grace Poe failed to do her role 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.
As expected, Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV did not affix their signatures as the duo vehemently believed that the killings have the official approval of the government.
Senators Ralph Recto and Joseph Victor Ejercito did not sign the report and in the committee hearings since he was suspended for 90 days by the Sandiganbayan due to corruption charges.
Trillanes assailed the report saying the Gordon/Lacson Report has cleared Duterte from murdering thousands of people.
He averred the 11 senators intentionally ignored the testimonies of some resource persons who told the seven committee hearings that their relatives were deliberately killed.
The report, however, noted that while there were no sufficient grounds to pin down Duterte, it said “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 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,” the report said.
“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.
The Gordon/Lacson committee discovered the unabated killings are not only happening under the present administration, but also happened in the two past administrations.
According to Gordon, the “excessive and unabated killings” have been happening for the last two decades with different names like “extra-judicial killings,” “cardboard justice,” “motorcycle riding-in-tandem,” “vigilante killings,” and “salvaging,” among others.
Thus, Gordon asked “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.”
The committee disclosed a Philippine National Police (PNP) data showing that under the Arroyo administration (2001 to 2009), a total of 91,762 killings were reported, or an average of 10,196 killings per year.
That is 850 killings per month, or 28 killings per day.
Under the Aquino administration (2010 – 2016), a total of 85,878 recorded killings, or an average 14,313 killings per year.
That is equivalent to 1,193 killings per month, or 40 killings per day.
With this picture, “the Committee took note of the many thousands of killings with impunity taking place every year in the last two decades at least.”
Gordon averred 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 also strongly urged the national government to take “an urgent need to undertake reforms in law enforcement and strengthen the criminal justice system to fortify the rule of law.”
The report, likewise, made special mention about the controversial Davao Death Squad (DDS) where it strongly emphasized that “there is no evidence sufficient to prove that a Davao Death Squad exists.”
It said that there was no sufficient proof that the DDDS has ever existed despite the disclosure of one of its long-time member Edgar Matobato.
It said that Matobato’s testimonies have a lot of contradictions and inconsistencies, which made it difficult to believe, or stand as sound pieces of evidence that could have pinned down Duterte’s supposed brain behind the unabated killings in Davao City for than 20 years.
“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.
This point revealed that Matobato’s credibility was in question.
Matobato appeared in the hearing at the time the Senate Committee on Justice was under the leadership of De Lima.
Matobato admitted that he was a member of what he claimed DDS whose sole job was to kill people upon the orders of then Davao City Mayor Duterte and sometimes by Paolo Duterte, now vice-mayor of the city.
He, however, denied that De Lima and Trillanes were at the back of his appearance before the senate.
The Gordon/Lacson report said reform consider the fact that the unabated killings since June this year, but also the unabated killings that have been going on in the country since 2001.
The data as revealed earlier in this article emphasized that the killings with impunity is not new in the Philippines.
However, the same report did not take note that under the present administration’s series of killings were focused on people connected with the illegal drug trade and trafficking.
The same report also asserted that the “unabated killings that have been going on through the years up to the present [were happening] without resolution and closure.”
“The common denominator is that there is no justice because there is no resolution or closure of these cases,” the report said.
It said every administration will come and go, 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 Gordon/Lacson report said.
The primary job of the Gordon/Lacson Committee 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:
- 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).
- Create and designate Special Criminal Courts for erring and abusive police, alongside illegal drugs courts.
- Create a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee to monitor killings and paramilitary units
- Take a bite out of crime through better crime-fighting strategies.