Aguirre to Amnesty Int'l: Drug lords, pushers are 'not humanity'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday, February 1, denounced the Amnesty International report on extrajudicial killings in the country, saying the supposed victims of the state's war on drugs "are not part of humanity."

In its report released on Wednesday, the international human rights group said Philipines policemen, “acting on instructions from the very top of government,” have killed and paid others to kill thousands of alleged drug offenders. It said these extrajudicial killings “may amount to crimes against humanity.”

In response, Aguirre said the war on drugs could not be considered as a "war against humanity" because it is only focused on "drug lords and pushers."

“Sinabi ko na 'yan eh di naman totoo 'yan. 'Yung mga criminals, yung mga drug lords, drug pushers, they are not the humanity (I already said that it is not true. The criminals, drug lords, drug pushers, they are not the humanity), Aguirre told reporters  after a Commission on Appointments hearing.

He stressed: “Hindi sila humanity (They are not humanity). In other words, how can that be when your war is only against drug lords, addicts or pushers? You consider them humanity? No, I believe not,” he added.

Amnesty International released the report as the death toll in the government's war on drugs tipped 7,000, and 3 days after President Rodrigo Duterte dismantled the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group of the Philippine National Police.

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa has ordered the police to stop operations against illegal drugs.

In a release to the media, Amnesty International said its report documents "how the police, working from unverified lists of people allegedly using or selling drugs, stormed into homes and shot dead unarmed people, including those prepared to surrender."

The report documented 33 cases involving 59 deaths. According to Amnesty International, researchers spoke to 110 people from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao “detailing extrajudicial executions in 20 cities across the archipelago.” Field research was done from November to December 2016.

According to a cop with the rank of Senior Police Officer 1, police were being paid between P8,000 ($161) to P15,000 ($302) per kill. The payment supposedly came in cash from “headquarters.”

“This is not a war on drugs, but a war on the poor. Often on the flimsiest of evidence, people accused of using or selling drugs are being killed for cash in an economy of murder,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director.

Since July 2016, police have tallied more than 7,000 deaths in the war on drugs. More than 2,000 have been attributed to police operations but the bulk are vigilante-style killings with possible links to illegal drugs. The PNP calls these cases “deaths under investigation.”

Senators: 'Present evidence'

Two senators said Amnesty International should “present evidence” to support its allegations against Philippine authorities.

“They should present evidence kung meron talaga….Kung ganoon ka-sweeping ang allegation or accusation, dapat suportahan nila ng facts of evidence. Hindi ganoon kadali mag-prove ng sinasabi nila (If they have sweeping allegations or accusations, they should support them with facts of evidence. It’s not that easy to prove their claim)," said Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Lacson said “anyone can conduct their own investigation” but any conclusion of such probe should be based on evidence. Referring to the Senate, he said, once evidence is presented, “that’s the time puwede tayo gumawa ng (we can take) action, being the legislature, sa pag-exercise ng (in exercising) oversight function.”

As for the families of the victims cited in the report, Lacson said they should “speak out in a court of law.”

He said the families should go to the prosecutor's office accompanied by a lawyer and execute a sworn statement.

"Otherwise storytelling 'yan. Pero kung ginawang sworn statement, there’s something and they should present additional evidence (Otherwise, that's just storytelling. But if you execute a sworn statement, there's something and they should present additional evidence)," he said.

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said of the report, “They can say anything but they have to prove it.” – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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