MANILA, Philippines – In a Senate hearing meant to probe the rise of killings linked to a bloody war on drugs and the current president’s alleged involvement in a death squad, it was the “international media” to inadvertently took the spotlight as senators took turns addressing foreign journalists in the session hall.
“I’ll say this in English,” several senators would quip as they translated Filipino statements into English, for the “benefit” of foreign journalists covering the Monday, October 3 hearing.
“Tama lang yung pulis kung lumaban na papatayin nila ang tao pero dito sa tinatawag natin mga DUIs (deaths under investigation), nababahala ang tao. Bakit ba pinatay yan? Kahit isa lang ang namatay na hindi na solve ng pulis, ang tao matatakot. Kaya siguro itong foreign media, tinitira tayo,” said Senate committee on justice and human rights chairman Senator Richard Gordon
(It’s only right that the police kill if the criminals fight back but when you’re talking about DUIs, people are bothered. Why were they killed? One death that’s unsolved by police, people are already afraid. Maybe that’s why the foreign media has been hitting us.)
“DUIs” is the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s term for deaths they are probing or have probed. The figure does not necessarily include cases of extrajudicial killings (EJKs).
On Monday, the committee headed by Gordon resumed its probe into the rise of deaths directly attributed to or suspected to be linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs.” From July 1 to Monday, at least 1,375 drug suspects have been killed in 23,474 anti-illegal drugs operations around the country.
But Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Vicente Sotto, III, both allies of Duterte, argued media – both local and foreign – should focus on another figure: the 22,387 drug suspects arrested around the country.
Since July 1, or the first full day under a Duterte presidency, an “intensified” campaign against illegal drugs was launched by law enforcement agencies around the country. While the campaign has the popular support of many Filipinos, it’s also reaped criticism from human rights groups, opposition officials, the United Nations, and other countries.
Cayetano too quipped during his turn to interpolate former Davao City police retired superintendent Dionisio Abude, that he was translating his statements in English for the benefit of foreign media practitioners in the hall.
Supporters of Duterte – those in government and regular citizens online – have criticized international press for supposedly “destablizing” the country.
The government maintains that EJKs are not state-sanctioned and that suspects slain in police operations were killed because they supposedly “fought back.” Out of over 2,000 DUIs, PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said 321 cases were “cleared” meaning cases were filed in court and 203 cases resulted in the arrest of suspects.
Gordon, who replaced Duterte critic Senator Leila de Lima as chairman of the Senate committee, lectured Dela Rosa and the rest of the PNP on the importance of being held accountable for speedily investigating murder and homicide cases whose suspects are unknown.
“We have to accountable. And for the foreign media, I don’t care what you say about is. We have not thrown the rule book. Because the Senate is investigating EJKs,” he added. – Rappler.com