Extrajudicial killings in President Duterte’s war on drugs are not state-sponsored, according to an official of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
Speaking on the sidelines of a CHR-sponsored forum on women and children victims of the campaign against narcotics on Monday, CHR Commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana said there was no official policy ordering the Philippine National Police to kill suspected drug pushers and users.
“We never said that it was state-sponsored at all,” Gana said.
“There is no such finding that we can conclude that way. But what we can say is that the killings are still continuing and in an apparent vigilante manner [by] unknown assailants, so this is a police matter and they should be attending to this right away,” she said.
All the current CHR officials are appointees of then President Benigno Aquino III: Chair Jose Luis Gascon and Commissioners Karen Gomez-Dumpit, Leah Tanodra-Armamento, Roberto Cadiz and Gana.
Gana said that to conclude that the war on drug killings were state-sponsored, there must be a written policy.
But she acknowledged that no such policy could be found, “because who will do that?”
Mr. Duterte’s pronouncements defending his war on drugs were not proof of state-sponsored killings, Gana said.
“Honestly … You see I’m a lawyer and you have to show there is a direct causation to what happened. If there’s a policeman involved [in an extrajudicial killing], can you say Duterte ordered that, that (the policeman killed) because of what Duterte said? A lot of motivations come in,” she said.
Gana said such policemen were likely rogue officers who were trying to cover up their own criminal activities, rather than following orders.
“As CHR [commissioner] I cannot randomly say that’s because of what the President said. What kind of investigator or lawyer [am I], what is my basis [in making such a conclusion]?” she added.
“I’m not Amnesty International, I’m not the Human Rights Watch who are advocates and probably can just say that. But we are CHR, we have to [make conclusions] based on something. We’re not an
NGO, we’re in government. We have to be based on facts and evidence,” Gana said.
She was referring to the London-based Amnesty International’s 2016 report that accused the PNP of paying police officers and assassins to kill alleged drug offenders, and concluded that majority of the drug-related killings were “systematic, planned and organized” by authorities and could constitute crimes against humanity.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch, in its 2016 report, also slammed Mr. Duterte for the “unprecedented level of apparent extrajudicial killings by law enforcement.”
“Amnesty International came up with a conclusion with just 33 cases investigated. That’s not CHR. That may be your style but not CHR. We have a mandate. We are after the truth. We cannot just condemn anybody,” said Gana, who heads the CHR task force on extrajudicial killings.
She said after investigating 490 cases, “we can’t say whether they are state-sponsored.”