Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has decried anew the recent rash of killings of poor civilians purportedly perpetrated by masked men and motorcycle gunmen akin to the violent implementation of the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs.”
De Lima, a staunchest critic of the government’s war on drugs, said it is alarming that summary killings have once again resumed in areas where killings supposedly died down after the supposed “epicentre” of assassinations shifted to other regions.
“Uulitin ko ang aking panawagan sa ating mga kababayan: Kailan tayo lalaban at tatayo para sa ating mga karapatang pantao? Hanggang ilan ang kailangang mapatay para tayo ay tumindig at magsabing: ‘Itigil na ang patayan!’”, she said.
De Lima recalled the recent killings of a certain Vicente Rufino, 33, a father and husband from Caloocan, who was reportedly shot multiple times by two masked assailants in the head and body around 2AM last Jan. 29.
According to Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Rufino and his brother were released last Dec. 2 due to lack of evidence on illegal drug charges against them.
Eerily similar to deaths caused by the administration’s anti-drug operation Oplan Tokhang, De Lima also cited the death of a certain Carlos Sanchez, 37, who was shot and killed last Jan. 29 in Caloocan City by motorcycle gunmen.
Based on Caloocan prelate’s accounts, two sachets of what was believed to be illegal drugs were recovered from Sanchez corpse.
The lady Senator from Bicol also lamented the untimely death of Rhonjay Furio, an eight-year old boy from Manila who was hit by bullets intended by assassins for Robert Cudal, 52, an incumbent Barangay Councilor.
Furio, a grade three pupil, was buying food when the shooting occurred. Footage from a closed-circuit television camera showed that he was clutching his chest before he fell after several gunmen open fired on Cudal and those beside him.
“This brutality has to stop. Not only should authorities investigate the summary executions, that also put children in the crosshairs of assassins, but also ensure that the killers and their enablers are unmasked and prosecuted,” De Lima said.
“It is dishearthening that many of these killings are left unreported by media, even ignored. Hindi na ‘news’ ito para sa karamihan, dahil tila normal na normal na ang mga patayan sa ating lipunan,” she added.
De Lima pointed out that the recent streak of killings all the more makes the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) intervention urgently imperative, noting that Mr. Duterte has done almost nothing to prevent the mass atrocities happening under his watch.
“Para sa akin, wala nang duda na dapat nang buksan ng ICC ang formal investigations nito sa crimes against humanity na nangyayari dito sa ating bansa sa ilalim ni Duterte,” she said.
In October 2017, De Lima filed an official communication to the ICC regarding the glaring human rights violations allegedly committed by President Duterte and other state actors under his administration.
The ICC, led by its Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, said it will finalize its preliminary examination and will present a report sometime this year on the situation of alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippines.
As early as 2016, De Lima was the first lawmaker to initiate a Senate investigation into the glaring human rights violations being committed under the Duterte administration’s all-out war on illegal drugs.
Due to her vocal opposition to violent war on drugs, she was subjected to verbal attacks and vilification as well as unjustly and illegally charged with trumped-up drug cases based on testimonies by convicts and persons with questionable integrity. (30)