Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought for a Senate investigation into the drastic increase in the number of drug-related killings in Central Luzon due to the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) intensified anti-drug operations in the region.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 1041, De Lima noted the unprecedented record of deaths in Central Luzon which has reportedly been referred to as the “new extrajudicial killings epicenter” and the “new killing fields” of Mr. Duterte’s War on Drugs.
“The past year, various news reports show that while Metro Manila has registered a reduction on the number of deaths in their drug-related operations, nearby provinces and regions have recorded more than one death a day, specifically Central Luzon, and that it has become the new focus of the War on Drugs,” she said.
“It is urgent to investigate this apparent shift of focus to Central Luzon and to assess the strategy pursued by the administration’s drug war,” she added.
Based on 2018 data released by PNP, 542 drugs suspects were killed in police operations in Central Luzon, accounting for 29.6 percent of the total drug operation killings in 2018, compared to 285 drugs suspects killed in the National Capital Region representing only 15.57 percent of the total.
De Lima also pointed out that cops in Region III have low number of seized illegal drugs, with Central Luzon cops only having hauled 11.98 kg of shabu, an amount greatly lower than that of Metro Manila cops’ 143.85 kg.
According to her, the exodus of controversial cops from Metro Manila to Central Luzon, including, among others, current Bulacan Provincial Director Chito Bersaluna who was the Caloocan City Police Chief amid the killing of Kian delos Santos in 2017.
“The manner of executions reflects the killings made here in Metro Manila, the difference being the drug operations are committed in another area, with new victims,” she said.
In filing the resolution, De Lima also sought to investigate if the state authorities joining police operations are using the government’s all-out war on drugs and their positions as license to commit human right violations and other illegal acts.
“It is also imperative to look into the factual and legal issues relating to these killings and determine whether these killings were products of legitimate police operations; the rights of suspects or persons subject of operations have been observed; and existing procedures on arrest, seizure and arrest have been complied with,” she said.
The lady Senator from Bicol expressed optimism that the Senate can help push legislative measures that ensure that the police forces are prevented from abusing their power, especially during operations involving suspected drug offenders.
“Congress through relevant and appropriate legislation must end the perpetration of the culture of impunity by facilitating the enforcement of the full extent of the law against persons, both state and non-state actors, responsible for summary killings,” she said.
Since Duterte carried out his war on drugs in 2016, about 28,176 individuals were killed – 5,176 of whom are considered “drug personalities” while 23,000 are victims under the category of “homicide cases under investigation” (HCUIs).
In its second half of its one-time, six-year term of office expiring on June 2022, Mr. Duterte has vowed to launch an even harsher war on illegal drugs.
As a vocal critic of government’s war on drugs, De Lima filed SR No. 9 seeking for an investigation into the rampant extrajudicial killings and summary executions of suspected drug offenders in the country in 2016. Even in her detention, she filed several resolutions, such as SR Nos. 357, 358, 421, and 451, seeking for a Senate investigation into the alleged involvement of some unscrupulous police officers in cases of extrajudicial killings and summary executions.