MANILA, Philippines – If President Rodrigo Duterte is really "serious" in solving cases of drug war killings, he should let an independent body such as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) do the investigation, the Liberal Party (LP) said on Saturday, September 9.
The LP said in a statement that this would yield more productive results than Duterte's order for Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa to look into groups allegedly "sabotaging" his government's war on drugs.
“On the killings, if the government is serious about solving them, it should allow an independent, impartial body – the Commission on Human Rights is constitutionally mandated – to conduct the investigation of these killings so as to be more credible to the public,” the LP said.
The former ruling party made the call a day after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered his top cop to probe a supposed plot to weaken his government’s war on drugs, based on the gruesome killing of 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman.
Duterte had also thumbed down the request of the CHR to have access to PNP case files on killings in the drug war. The CHR had reiterated its request to the PNP following the deaths of teenagers Kian delos Santos and Carl Arnaiz, who both died in the hands of Caloocan City police.
'Preposterous' sabotage plot
On the alleged plot to sabotage Duterte's war on drugs, the LP said, “The government should face the problem of drug-linked killings head-on, instead of trying to look for purported saboteurs and destabilizers when things have become too messy and bloody."
Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin dismissed Duterte's sabotage angle as "preposterous and absurd," and joined calls for an independent investigation of the drug war killings.
"President Duterte has almost absolute control over government from the legislative to executive branches including the security sector. He has tons of intelligence fund at his disposal to go after the perpetrators of EJKs," Villarin said.
"It’s the height of irony to blame others while his PNP under General Dela Rosa has done nothing to curb the EJKs nor has the DOJ prosecuted people responsible for thousands of murders," he added.
For Malacañang, there is nothing surprising at all with the President's theory, given the “powerful narco-politicians and deep-pocketed drug lords” who were “adversely” affected by the drug war.
“It should not come as a surprise that these malignant elements would conspire to sabotage the President's campaign to rid the Philippines of illegal drugs and criminality, the centerpiece program of the administration, to succeed, which may include creating scenarios stoking public anger against the government,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“The recent killings apparently targeting the youth should be viewed with suspicion and urgency,” he added.
Detained Senator Leila de Lima, an LP member, said Duterte's attempt to "re-angle" the killings of the teenagers as a ploy of his detractors was his way of deflecting criticism.
"Duterte did not expect the public relations backlash that the killings of the teenagers has produced. It is not as if these are new. Since day one of his drug war children and teenagers already started to fall like flies," De Lima said in a separate statement.
De Lima noted that the Davao Death Squad, which Duterte allegedly used for extrajudicial killings of crime suspects and his political enemies when he was Davao City mayor, "was famous for the killing of children and minors aged 12 to 18."
"Because they could not send them to jail under the Pangilinan Law, which Duterte occasionally criticizes, they just killed them right after letting them go. Most of them were knifed to death instead of being shot to make it appear that they were killed in gang wars," said De Lima, who tried to probe the DDS when she was CHR chief.(READ: The day Duterte faced the Commission on Human Rights)
The senator – Duterte's fierce critic – also took a swipe at the President's pronouncement that so he could not have sanctioned the teenagers' killing as one of the victims, Arnaiz, is his "relative."
"Mr President, the fact that Carl Angelo is your relative, even if it is true, and I doubt it, does not mean you didn't order his murder. It only means you really don't care who is killed in your drug war. There is no way you can spin that to bring 13,000 people – children, teenagers, and all – killed in your drug war back to life," De Lima said.
Public outrage over the drug war were sparked by the killing of Delos Santos, Arnaiz, and De Guzman – just weeks apart, and under suspicious circumstances. Delos Santos was killed in a Caloocan police operation on August 16, Arnaiz in another Caloocan police operation on August 18, and De Guzman on September 5.