MANILA, Philippines – While one has already completed his full 6-year term and the other had just passed his 100th day in office, the chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) insists that the killings under the administrations of former president Benigno Aquino III and President Rodrigo Duterte are “practically the same.”
PDEA Director General Isidro Lapeña made the claim on Thursday, October 13, at the 6th Senate hearing on the spate of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration, when Senator Panfilo Lacson asked why there was an evident spike in the number of killings in the country since Duterte took office.
“Bakit napaka-noticeable ‘yung spike ng killings since the time we embarked, parang full-court press tayo sa drugs? Bakit there’s a sudden spike in killings whether they are involved in legitimate police operations or deaths under investigation. Do you have any explanation?” Lacson asked.
(Why is the spike in killings so noticeable since the time we embarked, full-court press against drugs? Bakit there’s a sudden spike in killings whether they are involved in legitimate police operations or deaths under investigation. Do you have any explanation?)
Lapeña claimed the deaths are just being highlighted now, but there is no singificant increase from the previous administration – a claim he failed to back with data.
“What we call now as death under investigations…if you compare this number and compare those who were killed during previous administration, they are practically the same, your honor,” Lapeña said.
“Nahi-highlight lang (It’s just being highlighted). If you will get statistics from the previous administration, there were also numbers of killings or death under investigations,” he added.
At the first hearing of the Senate probe into the alleged extra-judicial killings of alleged drug suspects in August, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano had claimed that there were even more deaths during the Aquino administration and during the initial months of the Duterte administration. (READ: FACT CHECK: Cayetano’s line graph or murder, homicide)
No ‘tremendous’ pressure to kill?
Lapeña added there seems to be more reported killings now because of the government’s intensified fight against criminality. He said there are “more operations now.”
He then echoed the police’s reasons for the rise of deaths – that armed suspects fight back.
“My observation, your honor, is well we have intensified these operations against illegal drugs. Fifty percent of those were killed because they have firearms with them, your honor. Of course, police officers have to take action to defend themselves and other people, that’s one,” he said.
Lacson then clarified: “Di naman kayo under tremendous pressure to produce results, to kill (Are you not under a tremendous pressure to produce results)?”
“Di naman (Not really), your honor,” Lapeña said.
The senator then asked some members of the Philippine National Police to present at the hearing whether they are pressured to kill alleged drug pushers or users.
“Wala namang order? Na ‘wala kang napapatay sa area mo, marerelieve ka next week (There’s no order? That if you don’t kill anyone in your area, you would be relieved next week?)” Lacson asked the police, who denied this.
PNP: Bulk of cases recorded from July to September
The Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS), however, has seen a spike in the number of cases it is handling.
A big chunk of the cases the PNP-IAS is investigating were recorded from July to September, when Duterte was already in power.
“If you are going to start from January to October, with respect to motu propio cases we are handling, that is 1,411. But from July to September, the motu propio cases are 1,298,” said lawyer Maria Lynnberg Constantinopla, chief of PNP-IAS Intelligence and Investigation Office.
Of the total number, 300 cases were already “dropped and closed” as they were “legitimate operations,” she said.
Meanwhile, only 28 cases were found to have probable cause, with Constantinopla saying the authorities involved violated “police and operational procedures.”
The Duterte administration’s war on drugs has been linked to the deaths of more than 3,000 people allegedly involved in illegal drugs. The Philippine government has sent a formal invitation to the United Nations to investigate the killings. – Rappler.com