House panel sets probe on drug-related EJKs during Duterte’s term

By Jose Cielito Reganit

May 16, 2024, 6:06 pm

<p>Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. <em>(Photo courtesy of Rep. Abante's office)</em></p>

Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Abante's office)

MANILA – The House of Representatives’ Committee on Human Rights is set to launch its investigation into the alleged extrajudicial killings (EJK) associated with the controversial war on drugs during the administration of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

In a press conference on Thursday, committee chairperson and Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. announced that the first hearing scheduled on May 22 will include a diverse group of participants, such as relatives of drug war victims, police officers, and Cabinet officials from the Duterte administration.

He said the investigation aims to “seek the truth” and gather “comprehensive information” on the alleged widespread human rights violations linked to the drug war, with the ultimate goal of developing legislation to “strengthen human rights” in the country.

“Ang tanong siguro ng iba (Some may ask), why are we conducting an inquiry into the deaths of alleged drug addicts or drug dealers? First, we must begin with the principle that each life is valuable and that each life lost is a profound tragedy. Second, we must point out that those who lost their lives, like every Filipino, are protected by the rights granted by the Constitution, one of which is due process,” Abante said.

“They are only ‘alleged drug users and dealers.’ They were not convicted because these alleged EJK victims were silenced, they were denied their rights. Now, it is our responsibility to the victims of alleged [EJK] and their families to seek the truth,” he added.

Abante said the committee would extend invitations to relatives of EJK victims, specifically prioritizing the parents of victims who were minors.

He also reiterated the committee’s responsibility to diligently investigate accusations, particularly in light of ongoing international scrutiny, such as the investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Abante expressed the belief that Congress has a vital role in investigating these matters and the potential for legislative action to address abuses and illegalities, including human rights violations, through the formulation of effective policies and laws.

Abante clarified, however, that it is not the intention of the committee to pass judgment, a point seconded by panel vice-chairperson Lanao del Sur 1st District Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong.

“It’s not actually the intention of the committee to prove whether the drug campaign in the previous administration was bogus or not,” Adiong pointed out.

He said the objective of the committee is to “find out whether in this country, we still exercise, practice due process.”

“The issues concerning drug-related incidents would also trickle down to the concern of whether these legal processes were exercised or not in the previous administration would also fall on under the context of preserving human rights,” Adiong said.

Echoing Abante’s sentiments, Adiong said the primary objective of the committee is not to assign blame but to enhance existing policies and laws, and curb the culture of killing and impunity prevalent in the country.

Government data shows that more than 6,200 drug suspects have died in anti-narcotics sting operations since Duterte took office in June 2016 until November 2021. (PNA)