MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has ordered a probe into the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr while inside his jail cell on Saturday, November 5.
Espinosa and his son, Kerwin, were among the first drug suspects named by President Rodrigo Duterte, who is waging a war on drugs that has been linked to the deaths of at least 4,791 people since July 1.
The CHR on Saturday said it "has already directed the concerned CHR regional office to conduct its own independent investigation" into Espinosa's death.
The commission issued this directive through CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel Gana, who chairs the commission's task force on extrajudicial killings.
"The Commission assures the public that it will remain faithful to its constitutional duty to uphold the rights of all, without distinction," the CHR said in a statement.
Espinosa died at around 4 am on Saturday. Police said Espinosa and another detainee, Raul Yap, resisted when authorities served them search warrants for violating a law against illegal drugs.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, said he "can smell EJK," the shorthand for extrajudicial killings.
The CHR added in its statement: "The reported death of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa today, while in detention at the Baybay City Provincial Jail, raises serious questions on the responsibility of the State to protect persons deprived of liberty, especially in relation to the primordial right to life of every human being."
"The Commission has consistently denounced all forms of arbitrary deprivation of life without due process of law as it transgresses the fundamental right espoused by key international human rights instruments and domestic laws," the CHR said.
Showing contempt for the commission, Duterte has repeatedly slammed the CHR for questioning him over extrajudicial killings when he was mayor of Davao City. At the time, the CHR was led by his current fiercest critic, Senator Leila de Lima.
Duterte has also vowed to protect policemen who end up killing suspects in the war on drugs, as long as it is part of legitimate operations.
Duterte told reporters on August 5: "For as long as it is done in the performance of a duty by the soldier and the police, akin 'yan (that is mine). That is my official and personal guarantee. I will answer for the deed." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.