MANILA – (UPDATED) The Senate Justice committee wrapped up its hearings into the drug-related killings that have sparked concern among local and global groups, but Senator Richard Gordon, the panel chairman, stressed in his concluding remarks that it showed there is due process in the Philippines.
The fact that ranking National Police officers attended all hearings and endured grilling by senators on the conduct of the centerpiece war on illicit drugs showed, Gordon said, that contrary to impressions created in the ranks of UN agencies, and allies in the US and Europe, there is an effort to ensure the campaign is carried out properly and within legal processes.
“Sabi ko nga, wag na natin lagariin ang sarili nating paa [As I keep saying, let’s not cut off our own feet]. The way I am looking at it, the policemen who reported here, looks like you guys, you are doing your job,” Gordon said.
In the course of the hearing, however, he scolded police officials for the slow pace with which they act on cases where police misconduct is alleged, especially in cases where suspects are killed and there are allegations of a rubout or violation of the police rules of engagement.
His panel’s vice chairman, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, grilled PNP officers about their conduct of operations – which account for less than half of the 3,700 killings since the anti-drugs war began July 1. The rest of the killings are tagged by PNP as “deaths under investigation,” but loosely referred to elsewhere as “extra-judicial killings.”
Nonetheless, Gordon praised the PNP at the end of the hearings, which were marred by shouting matches, walkouts and accusations of material concealment among senators.
In Chicago, Gordon said, from January 2016, there were 579 homicides in a city with a 2.8-M population, but in the city of Manila, with 1.78-M residents, only 102 murders were listed, and in Cebu, 212.
“I am saying this because I am putting it in perspective. The UN is trying to tell us everything but they are not looking at their own backyards. The grass in the third world countries is always bleaker when it comes to this some first world countries,” Gordon said.
Still, Gordon said, “our policemen should feel good, since they are doing a good job, provided they should stay within the law; because one murder beyond the law, is still murder.”
“The rule of law is happening here,” he asserted.
Gordon thanks CHR chief
Gordon thanked Commission on Human Rights chairman Jose Luis Martin Gascon after the latter delivered brief remarks reiterating the agency’s respect for the Senate, though an expected presentation by the constitutional body was cut short at the start of Thursday’s hearing after Gordon shifted the focus from the so-called extra-judicial killings to a bill reviving the death penalty for heinous crimes, especially drug-related ones.
In the course of the hearing, however, the panel shifted back to the EJK issues, as those summoned were not prepared to tackle at length the death penalty bill.
“Before we wrap up the hearing, CHR Commissioner Chito Gascon, who has been waiting since the hearing began, should be recognized,” Gordon said.
“I am not going to ask for his apology for the commission because he is not the one who said it, but I just want to assure you Mr. Chairman that all the affidavits you submitted here, we will turn over to the police for proper enforcement, and to make sure, it will be part of our report,” Gordon said.
“[The] report [will reflect] that we did not ignore anybody here,” he added.
In his brief statement, Gascon said that the Commission respects Gordon, as well as the members of the two panels investigating EJK, and gave assurances of the agency’s cooperation in all human rights investigations.
“We do express the Commission on Human Rights is always ready and prepared to assist the Senate committees in the work,” Gascon said.
With this, Gascon praised the good job done by the two panels in ferreting out the truth on the issue of EJK and all other issues involving human rights.
“We as a commission on human rights, acknowledged and worked closely with the Senate in previous times, at the present and in the ,n all matters that will involve the best interest of our people in the area of human of rights,” Gascon said.