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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday, August 24, lamented the failure of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to provide documents and details on deaths in the war on drugs.
This comes after PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said he is willing to cooperate with the investigations into the deaths – both from police operations and vigilante-style killings – under President Rodrigo Duterte's unrelenting anti-drug campaign.
"Mabilis sila magsalita na handa sila tumulong at tugunan ang problemang ito pero sa totoo lang, nagdi-dribble lang po (They're quick to say they are ready to help and solve the problem but in reality, they just delay)," CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon said during a Senate hearing into the death of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.
Delos Santos, a Grade 11 student, was shot dead by police during a drug raid in Caloocan City on August 16.
PNP data show that as of July 26, there have been 3,451 people killed in police anti-drug operations. Estimates for drug-related vigilante killings vary, but human rights organizations peg it at 12,000. (READ: CHR: Death toll in drug war higher than what gov't suggests)
As part of its mandate, the CHR has been requesting documents and specific information from the PNP. The commission has also requested a meeting with Dela Rosa.
They were, however, only provided a "matrix" or lists from the police force – not enough to aid the probes, according to CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, who heads the commission's extrajudicial killings task force.
"The documents that we were given do not answer the questions so I would like to request for the documents that will address the points we've raised," she said.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Oscar Albayalde referred to a directive by Duterte stating that all requests must pass through him. But Senator Panfilo Lacson, himself a former PNP chief, instructed the police to submit to the Senate committee the case folders of all incidents "no matter how many."
The CHR, under the 1987 Constitution, is tasked to investigate alleged human rights violations committed by state actors such as police or the military. (READ: Things to know: Human rights in the Philippines)
"We, as an independent constitutional office that is supposed to monitor state abuse, request that these file folders for all cases under police operations or vigilantes be given to us," Gascon said.
The CHR has been highlighting the difficulty of cooperating with the PNP since 2016. This, according to the commission, serves as a hindrance to their investigations and the eventual filing of cases.
In a December 2016 interview, Gana told Rappler that they hope the PNP "would cooperate more in the sense that they would be prompt in answering our queries." (READ: CHR in 2016: 'We are not enemies of the fight against drugs')
"Kapag ganyan na feeling mo na wala man lang news or updates sa kanilang imbestigasyon, magkakaroon ka ng impression na there is inaction on their part," Gana said. (When you feel that there is no news or updates on their investigation, you'll be left with the impression that there is inaction on their part.)
This was echoed by Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit during an interview in May 2017 – almost a year into Duterte's presidency. (READ: 'Demonizing' human rights in the first year of Duterte)
Latest data from the task force on extrajudicial killings show that they have been investigating more than 600 killings. At least 90% of those cases are motu proprio or upon the CHR's own initiative.
The CHR has filed 17 cases before the Office of the Prosecutor and 6 with the Office of the Ombudsman. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.