Amnesty International: Killings, death penalty put country in bad light
THE series of killings and the plans to revive the death penalty have put the Philippines in a bad light in the eyes of the international community, according to Amnesty International (AI).
“The spotlight is on us. The Philippines is one of the countries in the past which is so advanced when it comes to human rights discourse. And now, we’re making a U-turn in our commitments and reputation,” said lawyer Romeo Cabarde Jr., AI-Philippines’ vice chair, in a news conference here on Tuesday.
In its annual report, AI said at least 7,080 drug suspects throughout the Philippines were killed either in police operations or by unknown assailants from July 1 to Jan. 31 — a cause of great concern for human rights advocates.
“Amnesty International is very much alarmed. One life is too much. What more is losing at least 7,000 lives in a span of just eight months? Nothing can be more alarming,” said Cabarde.
According to AI’s report, the wave of unlawful killings across the country followed the election of Mr. Duterte who repeatedly and publicly endorsed the arrest and killing of persons suspected of using or selling illegal drugs.
Except for Mr. Duterte’s rhetoric in support of the killings, Cabarde said AI had no sufficient proof that would pin down Mr. Duterte to the drug-related killings.
Still, he added, they were looking into the possibility of bringing the matter to the International Criminal Court to give justice to the families of the victims.
“Nothing in the (AI) report says that President Duterte has a hand on all these killings. But his pronouncements in public, that he supports the police who can kill drug suspects, has a legitimizing effect,” he said.
“These are very alarming rhetorics because it promotes and legitimizes the use of violence and force, and even to kill people to fulfill certain functions,” he added.
Not a single policeman or private person was hailed to court for the more than 7,000 deaths, the human rights organization said. Witnesses and families of the victims feared coming forward in fear of reprisals.
Among the victims in the government’s war on drugs, the AI report said, was Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera town in Leyte who was gunned down by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) inside his detention cell in Baybay City last Nov. 5, 2016.
Even if the National Bureau of Investigation probe showed that the killing was a summary execution, AI said Mr. Duterte came to the defense of the CIDG operatives and even reinstated them to their posts.
Mr. Duterte said in interviews that he would not allow the CIDG operatives to go to jail for killing the mayor who had been coddling the illegal drugs operation of his son, Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr., the biggest drug lord in Eastern Visayas.
Cabarde said they also considered a threat to human rights the administration’s plan to bring back the death penalty.
“We ultimately oppose death penalty because it is a violation to the right to life. Death penalty will not stop crimes. We hope that the congressmen will decide based on conscience and not because they are pressured by the super majority,” he said.
Congress yesterday voted to restore the death penalty for heinous crimes (see separate story).
Cabarde said AI would try to reach out and talk to the President, hoping that they would be able to convince him to respect the rights of all Filipinos, even those who were into illegal drugs. “Human rights is the primary duty of the state. It supposedly has the right to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of its people,” he said.
As the police resumed its operations against illegal drugs, Cabarde expressed hope that it would be “bloodless.”
“We hope it will be more on rehabilitating drug addicts. And Amnesty International will continue to monitor,” he said.
President Duterte stopped policemen from conducting anti-drugs operation on Jan. 30 after the killing of a Korean businessman in the hands of rouge policemen in Camp Crame.
In less than month, he removed the prohibition and allowed the police to resume its operations against illegal drugs due to reports of a resurgent narcotics trade during the campaign’s suspension. Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said only select police would be deployed to continue the war on drugs.
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