No justice for drug war victims with reimposition of death penalty, other amendments to Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act

Investigation on cases of killings in police anti-drug operations should have been done long ago if the Philippine National Police (PNP) is genuinely committed to accountability among its ranks, human rights watchdog Karapatan averred, as the group said that “justice for drug war victims under this regime still seems dim when the killings and police abuses continue — and especially with the proposals to reinstate death penalty through the proposed amendments to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.”

“Opening 61 cases out of thousands is too little. The investigations are already too late. The PNP should’ve not even allowed the death toll in the brutal drug war to reach thousands just to launch an investigation. Any investigation now won’t bring back the lives claimed by the government’s murderous campaign, and by the looks of it, the carnage will continue especially through measures reimposing death penalty for drug offenses,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

After years of putting its files in secrecy, the PNP announced last Monday that it would grant the Department of Justice access to 61 records of investigations against policemen in anti-drug operations — a number representing less than one percent of 7,884 deaths reported by the PNP in its operations since 2016. The DOJ’s previous review covered only 328 cases which “were made available for review.” In more than half of the records reviewed, the DOJ said that policemen did not follow protocols.

While Palabay argued that “accountability is paramount most especially for the victims of this bloody campaign and their families, genuine accountability seems dim when the President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies and specifically one of the drug war’s chief architects, former PNP chief Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa, are pushing for amendments to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act that would only give a legal cover to the killings, arbitrary arrests, and other human rights violations in the drug war.”

House Bill No. 7814 was passed by the House of Representatives on its third and final reading last March 2,2021. The bill proposes an amendment stating that “[u]nless proven otherwise, a person found or is present in the immediate vicinity of the area of sale, trading, marketing, dispensation, delivery or distribution, is presumed to have been involved in the sale, trade, or distribution of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors or essential chemicals.”

Death is the maximum penalty stated in the bill, but capital punishment has not been reimposed in the country. During the Senate committee hearings on House Bill No. 7814 last Tuesday, May 25, Senator dela Rosa reiterated his proposal to impose death penalty for drug offenses. President Duterte, in his fifth State of the Nation Address July 27 last year, called on Congress for the swift passage of a law reimposing death penalty through lethal injection for drug offenses.

The Karapatan official asserted that “not only do the proposed amendments violate the constitutional right to presumption of innocence — which has been brazenly violated in drug war operations — death as a penalty also deliberately violates international human rights instruments and the Philippine government’s international human rights obligations in the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Philippines ratified in 2007.”

“Contrary to the facade that the Duterte government and the PNP are working for accountability and justice for drug war victims, proposed measures being railroaded in Congress only expose the fact that they actually want to expand the government’s brutal kill, kill, kill agenda as the killings and police abuses continue with impunity. We strongly fear that they’re only set to facilitate a bloodier and more insidious campaign of mass murder with a legislative fiat,” Palabay ended.