Senate to start probe into drug-related killings mid-August

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate is set to start its probe on the spate of drug-related killings in the middle of August.

Senator Leila de Lima is the chairperson of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, the main committee tasked to hear the issue. She was also the one who filed the resolution seeking an investigation into the summary killings.

“As far as I’m concerned, of course, subject to discussion also with the committee members of the committee on justice and human rights, ang target ko (my target) is second week or third week of August would be the start,” De Lima told reporters on Wednesday, July 27.

The investigation is all set despite earlier objections and questions from some of President Rodrigo Duterte's allies, who had said the probe is not in aid of legislation. (READ: SolGen taunts De Lima: What did you do to curb illegal drugs?)

Some groups have linked the killings to Duterte's strong campaign against crimes and illegal drugs.

Conduct of probe

The committee on public order and dangerous drugs headed by Senator Paniflo Lacson will be the secondary committee on the case.

De Lima said the two committees have yet to determine how to conduct the probe – whether joint or not.

She would meet with Lacson earliest on Monday, August 1, to discuss relevant issues.

Pag-uusapan namin ngayon kung magjo-joint hearing ba ang dalawang committee. Under the Rules puwedeng joint, puwedeng hiwalay... But we can coordinate even before Monday,” she said.

(We will discuss if the two committees will conduct a joint hearing. Under the Rules, it could be either joint or separate... But we can coordinate even before Monday.)

Lacson, however, maintained that the Senate is not the “proper venue” for the probe.

“I still maintain that the Senate is not the proper venue to investigate specific cases of possible extrajudicial killings. I do not want to break the unprecedented momentum and heavy gains of law enforcement against illegal drugs in our country,” he said in a text message.

“I may participate if only to put on record my views and opinion on the matter,” he added.

In the hearing, De Lima said they would focus on specific cases that are “suspicious.”

“So my staff has already been doing that, preparing. In preparation for the hearing, we are going to identify and showcase, or highlight representative cases na sa tingin namin meron talagang mga indikasyon (that we think have indications) that something is wrong because of signs of summary executions,” she said.

De Lima, however, was quick to clarify that she is not saying these cases are rampant. After all, she maintained that the point of the probe is to determine and clarify the issues reported in the media, as well as the actual numbers of deaths.

“But let me clarify that I’m not saying right now na marami 'yung ganung kaso (that these cases are rampant). So, kaya nga, isa 'yan sa thrust ng imbestigasyon na 'yan. Ilan ba? (That's why it's one of the thrusts of the investigation. How many?) What are we looking at? What is the percentage 'yang mga killings na 'yan ang puwede nating maturing na suspicious or questionable dahil nga may signs of summary execution? (What is the percentage of the killings that we can treat as suspicious or questionable because there are signs of summary execution?)” De Lima said.

"Gaano kalala ang problema, gaano kalala yung nakikita natin araw-araw sa telebisyon, sa balita na may mga namamatay in the course of the intensified drive against criminality, particularly illegal drugs? Ano ang tamang numero ng mga namamatay kasi iba-iba ang figures?" she added.

(How grave is the problem, how grave are the things we see every day on television, in the news that there are those who die in the course of the intensified drive against criminality, particularly drugs? What is the real count of deaths because there are different figures?)

De Lima has, so far, refused to reveal the identities of the resource persons for the committee hearings. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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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