De Lima renews call for independent fact-finding body on EJKs

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Senator Leila M. de Lima today reiterated her earlier proposal for an independent fact-finding commission to look into cases of extrajudicial killings, the latest of which involves the case of 17-year-old student Kian Lloyd de los Santos who was allegedly killed by police officers in Caloocan City last Aug. 17.

De Lima said her proposal was among the 10-point recommendations she made when she filed her Dissenting Report to the Joint Committee Report No. 18 of the Senate Committees on Justice and on Public Order last Dec. 13.

“We are calling for an independent probe on the President’s war on drugs and the concomitant EJKs that have gone with it, to be conducted by an independent commission,” she said in her 151-page dissenting report.

She recalled that her proposed independent fact-finding commission shall be composed of “men and women of proven integrity, probity, and independence” which include former Supreme Court justices and law enforcement officials.

“This commission should be tasked to probe deeper into the national illegal drug trade, and not just rely on another presidential drug list which shames and vilifies personalities before any formal investigation is even conducted,” she said.

“The commission will serve as a truth commission on the drug problem facing the country, and confront the data and statistics being plucked by the administration out of thin air,” she added.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has earlier proposed for the creation of an independent fact-finding commission to look into the causes and motives of EJKs, and the alleged rewards for policemen in cahoots with vigilantes.

De Lima said she supports Lagman’s proposal “to provide an alternative analysis of the facts” about the state-sponsored extrajudicial killings of suspected drug offenders, including minors used as alleged “drug couriers.”

“The fresh surge in drug-related killings of suspected drug offenders, which even includes minors, should serve as a wake-up call for our government to seriously investigate the human rights abuses by police who enjoy impunity,” she said.

“The inquiry should be conducted by an independent commission, and not by government agencies connected with President Duterte and his minions to ensure a fair and objective probe,” she added.

In the recent Senate budget hearing, De Lima noted the “dismal performance” of the Department of Justice under its Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III in investigating cases of extrajudicial and summary killings.

Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo admitted that out of 3,050 people killed in “legitimate police anti-drug operations” from July 1, 2016 to May 2017, only 37 cases are under investigation, three of which were recommended for prosecution.

“The cited figures raise questions. First, even if we are to accept the data coming from the PNP, the number of alleged EJKs as of April 2017 is already more than 7,000, and not just 4,000,” De Lima said in a recent statement.

The Senator from Bicol pointed out that last April, the PNP admitted to 2,555 killings that had occurred during police operations, while 3,603 are classified under “deaths under investigation.”

“But whether the actual number is 4,000, or 7,000 or even 12,000, what is unacceptable and unconscionable is the fact that our lead investigative agency is just handling 37 EJK cases!,” she added.

Records revealed that at least 31 minors were killed both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style executions. The death of De los Santos followed the killings of 81 others in Manila and Bulacan during what police called as “one-time, big-time” anti-illegal drugs operation.

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