20 August 2017
CHR expresses alarm over high number of deaths, commences motu proprio investigations
QUEZON CITY—The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expresses alarm over the unprecedented surge in the number of deaths in less than a week, with counts reaching 80, in the towns of Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and areas in Metro Manila, including the killing of 17-year old boy Kian Loyd delos Santos in Caloocan City. CHR has started its investigations on these new cases of extra-judicial killings (EJKs).
“The Commission through its regional offices has already commenced its motu proprio investigation on the alleged EJK cases. Investigators have been dispatched to Bulacan, Biñan, Laguna and Manila since the killings happened,” says CHR EJK Task Force Head Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana.
Motu proprio investigations are initiatives of the Commission pursued even without formal complainants.
Investigators in the CHR-NCR Region have coordinated with the delos Santos family. The parents already gave their permission to conduct an autopsy on Kian.
“Malungkot po kami na naging kabilang sa rising death toll ang mga kabataan. Marami na ring mga bata, sa iba’t ibang konteksto, ang napaslang, nasaktan, at nawalan ng magulang. Malungkot po kami lalo pa’t napaslang ng isang pulis ang batang pangarap din maging isang pulis,” laments CHR Chairperson Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon.
(We are saddened that the rising death toll also includes the youth. A lot of children have lost their parents, hurt, and worst killed. We are sad because a police shot a child who once dreamt of becoming a police officer.)
“This case is so tragic, and CHR has been doing its part. We want to make sure that the case is attended promptly and thoroughly,” adds Commissioner Pimentel-Gana.
CHR is also investigating the alleged EJKs in Bulacan and Biñan, Laguna. “Naka-deploy po lahat ng mga imbestigador para imbestigahan ang nasabing patayan,” assured CHR Region III (Bulacan) last Monday.
(All are investigators were deployed to investigate the reported killings.)
“We already got a copy of a CCTV record in Biñan, which is crucial evidence. Our investigator in Region IV-A is also in the process of seeking permission to extract statements from possible witnesses,” reports Commissioner Pimentel-Gana regarding the Biñan shooting incident in Laguna.
CHR has consistently clarified to the public and to the media that the institution is not against the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs. However, CHR believes that the methodology that the government is currently implementing put the lives of the Filipino people in danger.
“Hindi namin tinututulan. May tungkulin ang estado sa usapin ng protecting the people pero dapat may human rights perspective. Hindi dapat ma-traumatize ang mga tao. The approach should be harm reduction. Tulungan natin sila na maging productive citizens kaysa ma-vilify at ma-target. Tulungan natin sila na matugunan ang problema nila sa droga na may pagkilala sa kanilang dignidad,” clarifies Chairperson Gascon.
(We are not against the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs. The State has the responsibility to protect the people, but there should be a human rights perspective. The people should not be left traumatized. The approach should be harm reduction. Let us help the drug abuse victims become productive citizens instead of vilifying and targeting them. Let us help them solve their drug abuse problems by recognizing that they are humans with dignity, too.)
Approximately 80 people killed in the “one-time, big-time” operations this week also translates to 80 families grieving for the loss of their relatives, children orphaned, and women widowed. CHR believes that the drug abuse problem in the Philippines is rooted on the socio-economic ills of the society, such as poverty and unemployment, among others. Victims of drug abuse, who mostly belong to poor and vulnerable sectors, need rehabilitation, psychological support, and sustainable livelihood in order to refrain from the lucrative illegal drug trade.
The Commission also tirelessly calls the attention of the government to consider these alternative means in the campaign against illegal drugs.
The CHR, given its current capacity constraints, is only able to investigate and document a fraction of all the deaths that have been reported by the media. Despite this situation, CHR is doing its best and will not shirk from its constitutional duty to protect and promote human rights and the dignity of the Filipino people.
“Gusto ba natin ng isang lipunan na talamak ang patayan sa kahit saan? Hindi ba dapat ginagawa ng estado ang lahat para masupil ang krimen nang may pagkilala sa dignidad ng lahat?” laments Chairperson Gascon.
(Do we want a society with a high spate of killings in every corner? Shouldn’t the State exhaust all possible means to deter crime without putting the dignity of the Filipino people in peril?)
“We are in a democratic government, but there are a lot of killings. The price of freedom and democracy is eternal vigilance. If we let our guards down, we might lose our freedom,” adds Chairperson Gascon. ■
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