With the Duterte administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs fast morphing into a war against underprivileged children, Senator Leila M. de Lima today called for a Senate investigation into all reported deaths of young individuals killed amid the rash of extrajudicial killings in the country.
De Lima, former chairperson of Commission on Human Rights (CHR), filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 499 urging the appropriate Senate Committee to investigate the successive reports of killings of children either by police or vigilantes.
“These killings are clear failure of the State to protect children, youth, including indigenous peoples from summary execution and extrajudicial killings,” she said.
“Extrajudicial killings pursuant to the President’s campaign against all activities and transactions related to illicit drugs remain unabated. Public officials, officers and staff who participated in varying degrees in the perpetuation of extrajudicial killings should be held accountable,” she added.
Since President Duterte launched his all-out war on drugs last year, young individuals have been literally caught in the barrage, with children as young as five years old in the person of Pangasinan-hailed Danica May, shot dead.
Based on news reports, cops killed 17-year-old student Kian Loyd de los Santos for allegedly fighting out with the arresting officers during a drug raid in Caloocan City last Aug. 16. His death brings to 54 the number of minors killed within the context of the government’s campaign against drug trafficking, according to Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, a non-governmental human rights organization.
Two days after the death of De los Santos, police have also been accused of summarily executing 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz for purportedly robbing a taxi driver.
Three weeks later, the body of 14-year-old student Reynaldo de Guzman, who was last seen accompanying Arnaiz, was found in Gapan, Nueva Ecija with 30 stab wounds while his head was wrapped in packing tape. On the same day on Sept. 5, 19-year-old Obillo Bay-ao, a Lumad, was also shot dead by suspected militia.
The growing public outrage on unjust executions of children and teenagers led to a renewed call by several human rights groups, such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch, for an independent body to investigate the unlawful killings in the country.
Months before AI’s call, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs, through a Joint Statement, made urgent appeal to the Philippine government to address severe, multiple human rights violations including against human rights defenders and children who continue to be at high risk in a climate of prevailing violence.
With the worsening plight of children under the Duterte regime, De Lima said it is high time to strengthen institutions relating to justice and human rights, especially CHR, to prevent further records of human rights abuses especially by authorities.
“The appropriate Senate Committee should request the assistance of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, relevant mandate holders and human rights experts in designing the appropriate process or mechanism to bring to justice perpetrators and families of victims for the thousands of murders committed in pursuit of the anti-drug campaign,” she said.
“The consistent public statements of President Rodrigo Duterte that he shall answer for every murder committed by law enforcement, incites violence and elevates vulnerability of children to be harassed, injured, even killed,” she added.
Under the Philippine law, children are protected from any forms of abuses and violence. Philippines ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and the Congress has passed into law Republic Act No. 7610, “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act”, and Republic Act No. 9344 or the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006”.
United Article 6 of the UNRC, the State Parties, like the Philippines, recognizes that every child has the inherent right to life, thus requiring the government to undertake measures to provide protection against factors that threaten it.
Disturbingly, Duterte, who has unfailingly backed police-led killings, maintained he would continue his deadly war on drugs that already killed an estimate of 12,000 people, up to the last day of his term in 2022.
A staunch critic of injustices happening in the country since Duterte assumed presidency, De Lima vowed to protect human rights of women and children even while in detention for trumped-up drug charges fabricated by the present administration.