Duterte’s war vs drugs has 2 faces – lawmaker

Mara Cepeda
Duterte’s war vs drugs has 2 faces – lawmaker
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilar Jr says past congressional probes helped the Ombudsman determine cases to be filed against erring public officials

MANILA, Philippines – Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr defended his call for a congressional probe on the rising number of drug suspect killings, saying President Rodrigo Duterte’s ongoing war against drugs has its downside.

Kasi ang mukha ng anti-drug campaign ay dalawa e. One is the success, ‘yung mga nagsu-surrender, ‘yung mga nahuhuling mga drug lords – that’s the success. Pero ‘yung masamang mukha ng anti-drug campaign is extrajudicial killings. Dahil sa ngalan ng drug campaign kaya sila pinapatay,” Baguilat said at the Usaping Balita Media Forum at the Serye Cafe Filipino in Quezon City on Thursday, July 14.  

(The anti-drug campaign has two faces. The suspects surrendering, the drug lords being nabbed – that’s the success. But the bad side of the anti-drug campaign includes the extrajudicial killings. People are being killed in the name of the drug campaign.) 

Baguilat, who is a member of the Liberal Party, expressed fears that people in the future may justify killing someone who may have done them harm by simply branding the person as a drug pusher.  

E kung wala tayong malakas na tugon dito sa problemang ito, baka ang publiko, baka sabihin na okay lang na pinatay na kasi drug pusher naman (If we don’t have a strong response against this, the public may just be okay with the killing because the one killed was a drug pusher anyway),” he added. 

Baguilat and Senator Leila de Lima called for Congress to investigate “in aid of legislation” the killings of more than a hundred alleged drug pushers and users in the country since Duterte’s presidential victory. (READ: #AnimatED: Blood on our streets

Presumptive House Speaker and Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez opposed it. He said such an investigation should be undertaken by the police and the judiciary, not the legislature. (READ: SolGen taunts De Lima: What did you do to curb illegal drugs?)

Baguilat said on Thursday that the congressional probe on the war against drugs aims to determine if the police force is conducting operations with due process. 

Hindi lang ‘yung law enforcement side but also prosecution, the judicial system. So maybe down the line, puwede tayong makapag-isip ng mga batas para palakasin ang ating justice system para ang taumbayan hindi na nagre-resort to extrajudicial killings because mabilis ang ating hustisya,” he said. 

(We’ll investigate not just the law enforcement but also prosecution, the judicial system. So maybe down the line, we can think of laws that will strengthen the justice system so people won’t need to resort to extrajudicial killings because justice is swift.) 

Baguilat explained that Congress over the years has conducted probes that did not primarily change a particular law, but helped other government agencies implement their mandates.  

“In a way congressional hearings naman, kadalasan hindi siya (usually it is not the) proper forum for prosecution but it does help our agencies, whether it’s the Ombudsman, to point to possible issues na puwede siguro nilang bigyan ng pansin (that they could focus on),” said the lawmaker.

The 16th Congress, for example, led an investigation into the bloody police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that killed at least 60. 

Senators said the following should be held liable for the tragedy: former president Benigno Aquino III, then-suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima, ex-PNP Special Action Force commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas, and PNP Intelligence Group chief Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez.

The Ombudsman later filed criminal charges before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan against Purisima and Napeñas. 

Baguilat also reminded Alvarez  that his Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan party mate Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III led the more than year-long Senate probe on the corruption allegations against former Makati mayor and vice president Jejomar Binay. 

The Ombudsman already filed criminal charges against ex-VP Binay, his son dismissed Makati mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr, and other former Makati city government officials

The Senate investigation also derailed Binay’s presidential bid. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.