Senate to probe killings of mayors on Duterte drug list

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday, November 7, decided it would conduct separate investigations into the killings of two town mayors included in the drug list of President Rodrigo Duterte.

No senator opposed the motions of Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III calling for probes into the deaths of Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr of Albuera, Leyte, and Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Sotto first motioned that the committee on public order – chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson – investigate the alleged summary execution of Espinosa in the hands of policemen while inside a jail in Baybay City, Leyte.

Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the committee on justice and human rights, asked that his panel be also included in the probe, saying there are human rights violations involved in the Espinosa shootout. His request was granted.

Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte

"Mister Chairman, not that I need extra work, I want to make sure we do it right. There are human rights considerations here because a person inside the jail already, who should be already protected by the police or by jail authorities, was killed with impunity in the dead of night, at the crack of dawn, with alleged search warrant which you don’t need because they're already in jail," Gordon said.

“And obviously, if you're to listen to reports on media and reports on the ballistics, there was really impunity, ignominy that really strikes in the heart of human rights,” he added.

Lacson, citing reports surrounding death of Espinosa, earlier said: "Offhand, I can smell EJK (extrajudicial killing)."

According to the initial police report, Espinosa and another detainee, Raul Yap, resisted arrest when Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were trying to serve them search warrants for illegal possession of firearms and for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, respectively, at around 4 am inside the jail.

Lacson, a former PNP chief, questioned how a prisoner inside a cell "could even think of fighting back against police officers serving a warrant," and why the CIDG, not court personnel, served the warrant. Other senators also expressed alarm over the incident.

The Commission of Human Rights is also set to investigate the matter.

Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao

Senators also approved the motion calling for an investigation into the killing of Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom last October 28.

The committees on public order and justice and human rights are also tasked to conduct the inquiry.

Only last September 27, the police raided Dimaukom's compound in Datu Saudi but did not find illegal drugs.

Reports from authorities said Dimaukom and his convoy were flagged down at a checkpoint in Barangay Bulatukan, Makilala, North Cotabato, “based on information that the group will transport illegal drugs to Maguindanao and Cotabato area.”

Authorities claimed Dimaukom’s group slowed down at the checkpoint “opened fire at the operatives” – the same reason cited by police when suspected drug pushers and users are killed.

Both Senate committees are responsible for the controversial probe into the spate of extrajudicial killings, which had concluded that neither the state nor the President sponsored summary executions, and that there was no proof on the existence of the existence of the Davao Death Squad linked to Duterte when he was mayor. – 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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