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CHR backs special courts for drug war collateral victims
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) yesterday supported the proposal to designate special courts for cases involving collateral victims in the government’s war against illegal drugs.
“We should encourage and support any proposal that would help in the pursuit of justice and ending impunity,” CHR chairman Chito Gascon said.
“The CHR has previously called for the Department of Justice to file charges in all ‘nanlaban’ cases as there arises a reversal of presumption due to the admissions made and it may be good to consider the possibility of designating special prosecutors,” he added.
Gascon was reacting to the letter of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) asking Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to assign courts that will handle the killings of innocent individuals in relation to the anti-drug war.
At the House of Representatives, Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe urged President Duterte to create a task force to look into more than 4,000 victims of “extrajudicial killings (EJK).”
His Resolution 655 also seeks to compensate the families of the victims.
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“The deaths of more or less 4,000 alleged drug suspects are attributed to either vigilantes or drug syndicate members. Among the victims of the administration’s war on illegal drugs are a number of innocent people, including minors as young as four or five years old,” Batocabe said.
“The President has explained in recent news reports that the government is civilly liable for injury or death of innocent victims resulting from the war on illegal drugs,” he added.
In his letter, VACC founding chairman Dante Jimenez cited the rising number of “unfortunate killings of innocent victims of crossfires, mistaken identity and the like during the process of police operations.”
Gascon earlier called on Duterte to go beyond apologizing for the unintentional deaths of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire during anti-illegal drug operations.
“If the President is prepared to accept or concede that there have been persons wrongfully killed and seriously wants to set things right to prevent its further occurrence, then a zero-tolerance policy for this must be pursued,” the CHR said.
“That President Duterte is feeling remorse for those killed unintentionally in his so-called war on drugs should spur him to do more than just say sorry,” he added.
During an interview with the media on Dec. 29, Duterte said those who were unintentionally caught in crossfire could be considered as collateral damage of the government’s efforts to curb the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country.
“I would admit there were killings that were really unintended, like the children who were caught in a crossfire. Collateral damage, and I’m sorry… There has to be a casualty and there has to be some drawbacks there,” the President said.
He also noted that security forces would have no criminal liability despite the death of innocents during a legitimate anti-crime operation.
Gascon, however, said the government should stop shielding government forces with their justifications and urged the conduct of impartial investigations of all drug-related deaths.