Sen. Leila M. de Lima today expressed serious concern about using the administration’s all-out campaign against illegal drugs to kill suspected drug offenders by vigilantes and scalawags within the law enforcement agencies.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate justice and human rights committee, aired her concern at the start of the Senate’s public hearing on the unabated spate of extrajudicial and vigilante killings carried out in the campaign against illegal drugs. “What is particularly worrisome is that the campaign against (illegal) drugs seems to be an excuse for some law enforcers and other elements like vigilantes to commit murder with impunity,” she said.
“Hindi lahat ng nagaganap na pagpatay sa operasyon ng mga pulis ay walang legal na batayan sa paggamit ng lethal force. Masyado lang marami ngayon ang napapatay sa mga engkwentro kumpara sa mga nakaraang panahon para hindi magduda kung nasusunod ba talaga ang rules of engagement,” she added.
The neophyte senator explained that there are some indications that some lawless elements or vigilantes might just be exploiting the government’s campaign against illegal drugs to kill their own cohorts or carry out their nefarious activities.
“Mayroong mga nakikisakay at nakikisabay lang sa lehitimong operasyon ng kapulisan para makatakas sa batas at para pagtakpan ang kanilang partisipasyon sa kalakalan ng droga,” she said.
De Lima also noted the testimony made by PNP Director General Ronald de la Rosa at the Senate Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs last Aug. 18 that there are 665 drug suspects killed in police operations from July 1 to August 15.
“But what is even more disturbing is that in the same hearing, the PNP Chief stated that there are 899 drug-related deaths committed by unknown killers during the same period,” she said.
“Grabe ito! Katumbas po yun ng tatlumpu’t limang tao na patay kada araw (This is serious! It means 35 people are being killed every day),” she added, mindful of the differing accounts tallied by some media organizations.
At yesterday’s Senate hearing, however, PNP Chief De La Rosa told the senators that from July 1 to Aug. 22, there are 1,779 suspected drug offenders who were so far killed, 712 of whom were from legitimate police operations while 1,062 by vigilantes.
The Senate justice committee is scheduled to resume its public hearing tomorrow (August 23) and is expected to hear PNP Director General De La Rosa’s report as well as the testimonies of other witnesses and invited resource persons.