Photo from CHR
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday, August 29, called its first meeting with top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) as a “first step” towards better probing human rights abuses under President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
“Ang pananaw ko ay this is only a first step and at least nabuksan ang pinto (I believe this is a first step and at least, the door has been opened),” CHR Chair Chito Gascon said, describing the discussions as “cordial and open.”
The meeting comes after Gascon criticized the police on August 16 for not cooperating with its drug war investigations by not providing adequate information on the killings and denying requests to meet with PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.
Aside from PNP and CHR officials, Department of Interior and Local Government Office-In-Charge Catalino Cuy also attended the meeting which discussed how to achieve a “more transparent and immediate” coordination between the two government institutions.
“We agreed to create a mechanism to coordinate and exchange information on a regular basis,” Gascon said. “We meet on a monthly basis but in between those meetings and we will work out a mechanism that is acceptable to all agencies.”
Dela Rosa, meanwhile, hopes that the future investigations of CHR will be neutral.
“Huwag sila pumili na nakikita nila that will really cause the demise of the Duterte administration (They should not choose cases that they will see will cause the demise of the Duterte administration),” he said.
Hold PNP’s words
The CHR, under the 1987 Constitution, is tasked to investigate alleged human rights violations committed by state actors such as the police or the military. (READ: Things to know: Human rights in the Philippines)
But since 2016, the difficulty of cooperating with the PNP has hindered the commission from performing its mandate.
Latest data from the task force on extrajudicial killings revealed that they have been investigating more than 600 killings with at least 90% of those cases are motu proprio or upon the CHR's own initiative.
The possible “openness” of PNP will help jump-start better investigations into the killings, said Gascon.
The commission is aware, however, that human rights abuses will still persist so it vowed to continue monitoring the situation in Duterte’s war on drugs.
“Ultimately, truth and accountability,” Gascon said. “Alamin ang mga nangyari at naganap at kung may pananagutan, dapat panagutin sila (Know what happened and hold those responsible accountable).”
“We will hold them to their words and kung mapipigil nga ito, makikita natin down the road (We will see down the road if the abuses will stop),” he added.
PNP data show that as of July 26, there have been 3,451 people killed in police anti-drug operations. Estimates for drug-related vigilante killings vary, but human rights organizations peg it at 12,000. (READ: CHR: Death toll in drug war higher than what gov't suggests) – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.