CHR's Gascon reiterates concern over 'sense of impunity' in PH
MANILA, Philippines – As the Philippine National Police (PNP) prepares to return to the drug war, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) reiterated its concern over the lack of accountability for the large number of killings related to the police-led campaign in the past year.
“Our cause of concern is primarily the sense of impunity that has pervaded the country where violations occur and no one is held to account,” CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon said on Friday, November 24.
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday, November 22, that he will bring back the police to the anti-illegal drugs campaign as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency may not be capable enough. This comes a month after he designated PDEA as the “sole agency” in charge of the drug war after the PNP faced public outrage over the deaths of teenagers in the drug war.
Human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have warned that return of PNP can bring more "bloodshed and deaths."
Some senators also expressed concern over the PNP's return to the drug war and hoped they would learn from their past mistakes.
Gascon assured the public that the CHR will continue doing its job by monitoring human rights abuses as mandated by the 1987 Philippine Constitution – regardless of who will be leading the drug war. He reiterated his appeal to law enforcers to “fully cooperate” when it comes to investigations.
“We have asked for the cooperation of the police in our investigations and continue to expect the government respond accordingly to these requests for cooperation,” he said.
The plea comes as the CHR continues to face challenges in obtaining case documents and folders from the PNP. (READ: Duterte ordered police not to share files with CHR – DILG)
Don't be dismissive
The lack of accountability stems from the constant denial of the Philippine government to open doors for independent investigations into the killings.
To fix this, the CHR urged the government to stop being dismissive and finally be open to international probes. "If there’s nothing to hide, then there is nothing for them to fear," Cascon said.
“We call on the government to stop this cavalier and dismissive attitude to the human rights system and instead to cooperate fully with them,” he said. “The attitude that the government must take is an attitude of cooperation rather than dismissal.”
Both local and international organizations have criticized Duterte’s campaign for the number of deaths – around 3,967 suspected drug personalities have been killed during police operations as of October 25.
But Duterte has continuously reciprocated with threats and insults. On November 9, he threatened to slap United Nations (UN) special rapporteur Agnes Callamard if she would investigate him for alleged extrajudicial killings. (READ: CHR's Gascon to Duterte: Words matter)
Gascon, however, said that Duterte and his administration should openly accept the criticism and work to address the problems.
“The only way by which we can respond to those questions is the spirit of openness, transparency which begins with cooperating with CHR in the country and the UN human rights system globally,” he said. – Rappler.com