Philippine Congress starts drug war probe; Duterte not invited

Manila Rep. Abante justified the need for the House probe because extrajudicial killing victims were only “alleged drug users and dealers” who were not convicted in court and deprived of their rights.

Jane Bautista, Jeannette I. Andrade

Jane Bautista, Jeannette I. Andrade

Philippine Daily Inquirer


File photo of former President Rodrigo Duterte. PHOTO: PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

May 17, 2024

MANILA – The House of Representatives panel on human rights has set an inquiry on extrajudicial killings (EJKs) during the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, scheduling the probe two days before the 19th Congress ends its second regular session on May 24.

Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., who chairs the House committee on human rights, said the inquiry is scheduled on May 22 and officials of the previous administration would be invited.

He clarified, however, that he saw no reason to subpoena former President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, formerly Duterte’s national police chief, to the hearing and did not expect them to attend.

“We would like to maintain that [parliamentary] courtesy with the sitting senator and also with the former President,” Abante said. “I don’t think they will be able to attend even if we invite them anyway … but we will invite those who were very much involved.”

The senior lawmaker stressed that the probe on EJKs under Duterte’s drug war would be “impartial, fair and respectful in its efforts to obtain information and to hear all sides regarding the issue.”

Responsibility to victims

Abante justified the need for the House probe because EJK victims were only “alleged drug users and dealers” who were not convicted in court and deprived of their rights.

“Now, it is our responsibility to the victims of alleged EJKs and their families to seek the truth,” the lawmaker stressed.

Abante acknowledged that it was the first time his committee would look into Duterte’s war on drugs, which Dela Rosa implemented in what he called “tokhang (katok-hango)” operations.

“We could have conducted it motu proprio, but it is based on several resolutions that have been actually made by some of the congressmen,” he said.

He said that his panel was contemplating inviting former chiefs of the Philippine National Police, including Oscar Albayalde, and police unit heads as well as former Cabinet officials in the previous administration, particularly then Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

Int’l people’s tribunal

Abante announced the hearings as an international group of lawyers prepared to hold an “international people’s tribunal” on “war crimes” committed during “the US-directed counterrevolutionary war in the Philippines.”

The “people’s tribunal” is scheduled to take place on May 17 and 18 in Brussels, Belgium, and will hear witnesses, examine testimonies, and go over evidence on the war crimes charges against President Marcos and Duterte as well as US President Joe Biden.

In its website, the people’s tribunal styled itself a “quasi-judicial” or juridical forum organized by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the Friends of the Filipino People in Struggle.

Lawyer Edre Olalia, transitional president of the IADL, in a press briefing on Thursday said that the tribunal was intended to “preserve evidence” for future legal action and also serve as a “parallel platform.”

However, the groups did not specify what international treaty or convention authorized the tribunal and some participants admitted it had no duly vested prosecutorial powers.

Former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, who is set to attend the tribunal, explained that “the result of this tribunal is not possible [to enforce] by formal international bodies, but let it be a reminder that the documents, the findings, [and] the testimonies that we will be presenting, are substantial, not only supplemental, in proving that the duty bearers committed these violations,” he said.

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