Karapatan: No justice, more death and deception as Bato leads senate inquiry on drug war

Rights group Karapatan slammed former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and now Senator Roland "Bato" dela Rosa's recent election as chair of the Senate Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Committee in the 18th Congress, saying his chairpersonship would only result in a deceptive and partial investigation on the anti-narcotics campaign, as well as contribute to the climate of impunity and heightening human rights violations.

"Duterte and the Senate are not fooling anyone. Bato’s chairpersonship automatically strips the investigation of any credibility. With Bato at the helm of the Senate's investigation on Duterte's brutal and sham war on drugs, we expect more deaths, more lies, and not a single ounce of justice for the victims and their families. Duterte's fascist regime is blatantly removing any semblance of accountability and due process by making the chief enforcer of the brutal and sham drug war investigate himself.  This government is really turning into a circus,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Dela Rosa was named chair of the Senate Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Committee on Monday, July 22, 2019, and is set to head the Senate probe on the drug war. The government’s anti-narcotics drive has claimed thousands since Duterte rose to power. “The numbers, which were estimated from the PNP’s own data, is being downplayed and worse, justified under the “nanlaban” narrative. This Senate “probe”, which is merely a pretense, will further enable the perpetrators of the killings and dismiss the evidence and claims of those who truly suffered under this anti-people policy,” Palabay added.

The Karapatan official emphasized how the drug war has failed miserably, yet is still being championed by the government as its flagship policy to reduce criminality: “The policy is ineffective. Instead of addressing, or even just reducing the illegal drug trade in the country, the cumulative effect of this policy is widespread abuse, impunity, rights violations, and irreparable damage to the lives of the Filipino people,” Palabay explained, citing the cases of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos and 3-year-old Myka Ulpina, who were killed and treated as “collateral damage” by the government.

Following efforts to call for an investigation on reported violations in line with the drug war, the Duterte administration recently rejected the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to verify reports and look into the rights situation in the country. Dela Rosa also repeatedly stated that he would not inhibit from the senate inquiry on the drug war, claiming "'di naman ako pumatay," even describing Ulpina's killing as a mere "unfortunate incident" and that "shit happens" in police anti-drug operations.

"Bato should be reminded that the blood of thousands of Filipinos is on his hands. His current position will give him room to manipulate the probe. Bato and Duterte-allied politicians are in position to continuously peddle repressive policies and to cover-up for the crimes of the Duterte government. They are a danger to the Filipino people, and they are an impediment to justice and accountability,” Palabay ended.