Order NBI to probe every drug-related killing
Newly-confirmed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II must immediately enable the National Bureau of Investigation to start an independent, impartial and effective investigation into drug-related killings, particularly those that happened during police operations, and ensure that those responsible for unwarranted killings are held to account. Anything less would be shirking his duties as justice secretary and would enhance the culture of impunity.
On Feb. 16, 2017, Aguirre’s nomination to the justice department was confirmed by the Commission of Appointments. At his confirmation hearing, several senators expressed their concern about the alarming number of drug-related killings and lack of independent and transparent investigation into any of those cases until then.
Any unlawful killing is a serious human rights violation. Under Philippine and international laws, all killings, whether by the police or by unidentified persons, must be promptly, independently and effectively investigated. Where there is sufficient ground to believe that a person has been murdered, the suspects, together with those who have command responsibility over them, must be prosecuted.
More than two weeks after Amnesty International released a report documenting serious human rights violations in the Philippines’ “war on drugs,” there have been many varied reactions from high-level government officials, including Aguirre and President Duterte, but thus far, there has been no indication from the Philippine government that it intends to have these drug-related killings subjected to an independent investigation.
Amnesty international is deeply concerned that the continued killing of alleged drug offenders, which appears to be systematic—and planned and organized by police authorities—may constitute crimes against humanity.
Following the release of Amnesty International’s report, Secretary Aguirre stated that criminals are not part of humanity. However, in his confirmation hearing, the secretary claimed that he was just “misquoted.”
Shortly after his confirmation, the media quoted him as saying that he would propose the creation of a task force to probe extrajudicial executions. However, it was not clear if this task force would be independent or not.
Amnesty International calls on the Justice Secretary to ensure effective coordination between the NBI and the National Prosecution Service, both under his department, in order to conduct immediately a no-nonsense investigation into each killing and to prosecute those who appear to have been behind the killings, including those done by cops and paid killers; the practice of planting evidence by cops, and stealing from homes of alleged drug offenders.
Aguirre once said that under his watch “there should be no selective justice.” Meanwhile, justice continues to elude thousands of victims of unlawful killings and their families.
MARIA EDILYD ORIAS-PALMA, program coordinator, media, communication and publications, Amnesty International Philippines
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