House opposition seeks EJK probe, PNP budget review

MANILA, Philippines – Will third time be the charm?

Lawmakers from the opposition block on Tuesday, August 22, filed a resolution calling for a legislative probe into the “surge of extrajudicial killings and/or summary executions” linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s popular and bloody war on drugs.

In House Resolution Number 1222, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat, Albay 1st district Representative Edcel Lagman, Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, Northern Samar 1st district Representative Raul Daza, Caloocan City 2nd district Representative Edgar Erice, and Capiz 1st district Representative Emmanuel Billiones called on the lower house to probe recent killings in the drug war, including that of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.

Delos Santos, a Caloocan City resident, was killed evening of Wednesday, August 16, during a massive police anti-drug and anti-criminality operation in their community. Police claim Delos Santos was a drug courier who ran away and “fought back (nanlaban)” when police tried to catch him.

But CCTV cameras and witness accounts tell a different story. (READ: 2 shots in the ears, 1 in the back killed Kian – PAO autopsy)

The 17-year-old was allegedly beaten up by cops and brought to a dark corner in the cramped community. He was allegedly handed a gun and told to run. He was later found dead with a gun and sachets of shabu. (WATCH: The dark alley to Kian delos Santos' death)

The outcry over Dela Santos’ death has sparked renewed indignation over thousands of deaths in the hands of police in the drug war. More than 3,000 suspected drug personalities have died in the war on drugs, according to police reports.

Most, if not all, died because they supposedly put up a fight against police. Thousands more have been killed in vigilante-style killings with possible links to illegal drugs, according to police data.

House Resolution No. 1222 will be the 3rd filed in the 17th Congress to call for a legislative probe into drug war-related deaths. House Resolutions 242 and 259 – both calling for a legislative probe – have been pending in the House rules committee since late August 2016.

Senators belonging to the majoriy have expressed outrage over Delos Santos' death and have spearheaded a legislative probe into it. Both the House and Senate are dominated by allies of the President. 

Constitutional guarantees

In the resolution, the opposition bloc pointed out provisions in the Constitution that guarantee individuals due process of law, equal protection of the law, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Critics have accused police of defying these Constitutional guarantees in the name of the war on drugs.

“News reports cited the President as having said that the Philippines cannot control the drug problem and that the country does not have the equipment or capability to address the situation,” says the resolution.

The resolution also wants the House to “review the budget of the Philippine National Police in relation to the conduct of its anti-drug campaign.”

Read the resolution in full here: 

For the year 2018, the PNP, through the Interior Department, is asking for P131.5 billion, a P20 increase from its 2017 budget.

Over P900 million, in particular, has been budgeted for Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded, the official umbrella term for all of the PNP’s anti-drug operations.

Double Barrel includes “Oplan TokHang,” a literal knock-and-plead operation meant to convince alleged drug personalities to “surrender”, and “Oplan High-Value Target”, which is supposed to target drug lords and top-level personalities in the drug trade.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, a Liberal Party member who is part of the Senate majority, had earlier called for more scrutiny of the PNP budget.

“Before such campaign is reloaded with funds, questions as to how it will be implemented must first be asked by the institution which will approve that request – Congress. It should not write a blank check,” he said in a statement released days after Delos Santos’ death.

The appropriations committee hearing for the DILG and PNP budget took place on August 17, the Thursday after Delos Santos’ death. Lawmakers in the House criticized PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa and Interior officer-in-charge Undersecretary Catalino Cuy for skipping the hearing.

The two top officials were in Ozamiz then to accompany Duterte in his audience before local police who had earlier operated against Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and his family, alleged drug personalities according to the President himself. The mayor, his wife, and 13 others died in that police operation.

House appropriations committee chairman Karlo Nograles earlier said he expects a “heated” debate over the DILG and PNP budget once it reaches plenary. The department’s pre-plenary budget deliberations are scheduled by the end of August 2017.

Ending the drug problem was among Duterte’s key promises during the 2016 elections. – Rappler.com