Current Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo is reportedly lamenting the lack of public outcry versus drug killings. She said that she is worried about the culture of impunity and violence that is going on. First of all, what she’s saying is not true. There are so many social media activists who are condemning the seeming rise in “extra-judicial killings” in the past month. Second, the culture of impunity and violence has been around even before President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into office. In fact, some of us have long been lamenting the lack of public outcry versus the death and violence in the country as a result of the drug epidemic gripping the nation.
Robredo had either been living under a rock or turning a blind eye to criminality that had risen in the last decade especially during former President BS Aquino’s term. BS Aquino was a model for impunity and abuse of power as evident in the way he protected his friends and allies when they were alleged to have been violating the law and remiss in their duties as public servants.
Assassins on motorbikes have been around for years. Unfortunately, now that Duterte is in office, people like Robredo connect their activities with what seems to be an across-the-board response to the President’s call to fight drug pushers and peddlers.
In other words, it is not clear to the public now if some of the killings are being done by killers hired by drug lords who could be cleaning up their ranks or by actual vigilantes or even by elements of the police. Only a thorough investigation by the proper authorities can tell us who killed who and why. A recent tally indicates that out of the 440 cases of drug suspects getting killed so far, 41 percent or 181 were perpetrated by unidentified suspects, while 59 percent or 259 of the cases were during legitimate police operations.
It would be difficult to conclude if there are indeed, vigilantes operating in Manila. The killers do not leave a signature mark. I guess only vigilantes in movies like Batman would. While most victims died from gunshot wounds, there have been a few victims who were found wrapped in duct tape, which some are suggesting were executed in a pattern similar to the signature style of drug cartels from countries such as Mexico. Again, victims found wrapped in duct tape have been reported in previous years as well, which is proof that this phenomenon did not just happen during Duterte’s term. This also supports Duterte’s claim that drug cartels are already operating deep inside Philippine society which, it seems, is close to becoming a narco-state.
I suppose investigators can prove if unidentified suspects behind the deaths are vigilantes or not by checking the bullets lodged in the victim and trace what type of gun was used. They should be able to tell if the guns used were registered or not by making inquiries from gun shops or ammunition suppliers. Or maybe not. Perhaps the proliferation of illegal guns in the country would make it difficult for the police to trace the weapons used by the killers. This highlights the fact that guns are easy to get in the Philippines. No wonder there are so many gun deaths in the country. People like Robedro should also lament the ready availability of guns to anyone who wants them and address that problem as well.
Robredo should get some perspective. Only a proper court can tell her if the killings were extra-judicial or not. If she is going to cite “human rights” and “due process”, she should apply it to everyone consistently. The members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) are also entitled to due process. All police operations should be properly documented and report on how and why the suspects were killed during the operation. I am not saying I trust every cop who says “the suspect was shooting at me and resisting arrest”, but since neither Robredo nor I were around during the shootout, who are we to say if the account of the police was false?
Besides, Robredo should not forget that the human rights record during Aquino’s term was just as appalling. In 2014, the Manila Times even reported that the “US Congress imposed a limit on military aid to the Philippines due to the country’s failure to stop extrajudicial killings and send violators to jail.” The report continues…
In its 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the US State Department said extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances undertaken by security forces are the most significant human rights problems in the Philippines.Impunity persists because the government lacks “sufficient mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption in the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” the report said.While cases of human rights violations perpetrated by government troops have been investigated, very few ended in convictions because majority of these cases were dismissed, it said.Limited prosecutions“The government continued to investigate and prosecute only a limited number of reported human rights abuses, and concerns about impunity persisted,” it added.“From January to October, the Office of the Ombudsman, an independent agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting charges of public abuse and impropriety, received 306 cases involving military and law enforcement officers accused of committing human rights abuses.
One wonders why Robredo did not lament the lack of outcry against human rights abuses during BS Aquino’s term or in previous years. She’s very vocal now just because she does not agree with and is not part of Duterte’s war against drugs.
There is no denying that Duterte’s policy has yielded some results. So far, there have been 565,806 drug dealers who have surrendered to police. Likewise, two mayors from Lanao del Sur who are alleged to be involved in illegal drugs, have surrendered to police. They are considered “big fish” — something former Department of Justice Secretary — now Senator — Leila de Lima suggested he go after. Even with that, Duterte’s critics are still unimpressed. They say only poor suspects get killed. But the mayors surrendered. There was no shootout. There was no need for the police to kill them.
It could be that people like Robredo and including de Lima are unhappy with the way Duterte is addressing drug epidemic because they are in denial that there is a drug epidemic in the first place. If that is the case, they will not be impressed by any measure at all.
[Photo courtesy Interaksyon.]