Philippine Senators will investigate a wave of killings against drug users and dealers by vigilantes and police officer under unclear circumstances. On Monday an inquiry was opened into the murders of more than 1,800 people. The out-of-control war against drugs started after Rodrigo Duterte was named President of the Philippines.
The killings took place during the first seven weeks after President Duterte took office, who has promised to eliminate criminals involved in the drug market. The police have reported that vigilantes have killed more than 1,070 people and stated that those death are related to drug syndicates, The Wall Street Journal reports. Senator Leila de Lima began the process to investigate the massive number of fatalities.
She is the head of the Senate justice committee that is leading the inquiry on the crackdown on drugs. The Senator believes that the campaign on drug dealers and drug users has been used as an excuse by police officers and vigilantes to commit murder with impunity.
National Police chief Ronald Dela Rosa stated that the police actions had been part of “Operation Double Barrel” and they are responsible only for 712 deaths that happened during confrontations between the police and suspected drug dealers. Operation Double Barrel began on July 1, just after Duterte became President of the Philippines.
According to The New York Times, Dela Rosa said he did not condone extrajudicial killings and stated that the police force is investigating more than 900 cases related to the crime. He promised that the police would fully cooperate with the Senate probe.
The alarming number of death in such a short period has caught the attention of human rights activists, leaders of the dominant Roman Catholic Church, the United States, and the United Nations (UN).
The UN has warned the Philippine government about the mass killings and told them that they could face legal actions. Agnes Callamard, a Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, said she might visit the country to assess the situation.
A hypersensitive President to critics against his ways to fight crime
President Duterte did not tolerate criticism against his campaign that seeks to combat illegal drugs and stated that the UN was “stupid” for interfering in his country’s affairs. Regarding Callamard visiting the country, chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo told her the Philippine government has no problem in receiving her because they have nothing to hide.
On Monday Perfecto Yasay, who is Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary, justified Duterte’s aggression against the UN with the fact that the President had been tired and hungry. It was around 1:00 a.m. when he insulted the UN. Yasay clarified that the Phillippines would never quit the United Nations.
President Duterte accused Senator de Lima of being an immoral woman for allegedly accepting kickbacks from drug dealers while she was the Justice Secretary. Duterte said on live TV that de Lima was having an affair with her driver, who collected the money from drug lords. President Duterte stated on his live TV appearance that de Lima used the money to buy her lover a new house. I wonder if President Duterte was also tired and hungry last week.
Senator de Lima denied the allegations and said that Duterte was trying to intimidate her. She vowed to proceed with her Senate committee probe and discover who was behind the illegal killings.
President Duterte built his name in politics as a strict mayor that declared himself against crime. He has threatened drug lords and drug users with death and Dela Rosa has even made jokes about the fate of criminals.
More than one Senator is looking for answers regarding the death of more than 1,800 people. The wave of violence scares investors
Senator Trillanes IV is also investigating the high number of fatalities that happened during the firsts week of Duterte’s administration. He has warned police officers that have participated in extrajudicial killing that they would face charges despite President Duterte guarantee that police forces would be protected if they are accused of criminals for fighting crime.
Trillanes asked Dela Rosa how all these crimes have managed to take so many lives under his watch, including motorcycle-riding gunmen. Trillanes tagged the situation as anarchy and said that it had been held while Dela Rosa has been National Police Chief.
The recent mass killings and Duterte’s statements against the United Nations have raised concerns among people in the business community because these events will only scare foreign investors. People do not want to go back to the time before Mr. Benigno Aquino presidency when the economy of the country was hard for everybody. Former President Aquino managed to restore the Philippines economic credibility, and Duterte’s actions are undoing his work.
The Wall Street Journal reported that executive director of the Makati Business Club, Peter Perfecto, said that human rights groups influenced the decisions of investors and added that Australia, the United States and even the European Union have already expressed their fears about making business in the Philippines.
Source: The Wall Street Journal