Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon met with the country’s top police official on Tuesday, August 29 to discuss the alleged extrajudicial killings in connection with President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
Describing his discussion with Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa as “cordial and open,” Gascon said their first meeting “opens door” to a more transparent investigation into drug war-related cases.
“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),” the CHR chairman said in a media conference.
According to him, both the CHR and the PNP “agreed to create a mechanism to coordinate and exchange information on a regular basis.” Both agencies also agreed to meet every month.
The CHR had requested for the complete case folders and checklist of all drug war-related cases — including deaths under investigation — which Gascon said the PNP agreed to provide.
“I hope that the spirit of transparency and accountability which were discussed in our meeting will be sustained in the case review regarding all those who killed in the war on drugs,” Gascon added.
Created in 1987, the CHR is tasked to protect citizens from all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights.
Figures from PNP show that as of July 26, there have been 3,451 people killed in police anti-drug operations since the campaign’s launch last year.
Gascon assured that the commission will 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).”
He added, “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).”
For his part, Dela Rosa said the PNP recognizes the CHR’s duty to monitor the conduct of state agents.
He expressed hope that all future CHR investigations 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),” the PNP chief said.
Apart from PNP and CHR officials, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Office-In-Charge Catalino Cuy also attended the meeting.
Cuy assured that the DILG, CHR, and PNP all “prioritize” and “had no conflict with regards to human rights.”