Human rights lawyers urge Duterte to stop killings

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol August 24,2017 - 11:10 AM

A group of human rights lawyers in Central Visayas has joined calls for President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the government’s bloody war on drugs and to create an independent commission to look into the spate of drug-related killings in the country.

In a resolution, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) denounced the summary executions which the lawyers described as “barbaric, unconstitutional, and unChristian.”

“Our country today has become one huge national slaughterhouse where suspected drug users and pushers have been gunned down with impunity by vigilantes and police officers,” said FLAG-7 led by its chairman Democrito Barcenas.

Copies of the FLAG-7 resolution will be sent to the Office of the President and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III “for their information and guidance.”

FLAG-7 said the killings, a number of which are perpetrated by police officers, have continued since President Duterte launched an intensified campaign against illegal drugs in July 2016.

The human rights group said an independent commission composed of retired Supreme Court justices with proven integrity, probity, and independence must be created to conduct an impartial investigation on the “uncontrolled” series of killings.

“The planned Senate investigation is merely a damage control and cannot ferret out the truth because it is dominated by President Duterte’s spineless apologists,” FLAG-7 said.

FLAG-7 is the first and largest group of human rights lawyers established in the nation.

The group, which aims to protect and promote of human rights and civil liberties, was founded in 1974 by former Senators Jose Diokno, Lorenzo Tañada and Joker Arroyo during the Martial Law Era under President Ferdinand Marcos.

Based on the records of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), 205 drug suspects were killed in alleged shootouts with policemen in the region while 213 others were killed from unidentified gunmen from July 1, 2016 to August 15.

Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, director of PRO-7, maintained that drug suspects who were killed in legitimate police operations placed the lives of the operatives in danger.

At least 11,122 drug suspects were arrested in Central Visayas from July 1, 2016 to August 15 while 109,301 drug users and pushers surrendered at the onset of Oplan TokHang or Toktok Hangyo, a police door-to-door anti-drug campaign where drug suspects were asked to surrender and sign documents renouncing their drug-induced life.

Since the war on drugs started last year, the PRO-7 has seized a total of 40,042 grams of shabu (methamphetamine) worth P472.5 million

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TAGS: Aquilino Pimentel III, Central Visayas, extrajudicial killings, Free Legal Assistance Group, human rights, Rodrigo Duterte

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