POSTSCRIPT / February 23, 2017 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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A chance to wash our bloody hands

WE HAVE just been given another chance to wash away the blood on our hands that have been sullied by the summary execution of thousands of plain folk on mere suspicion of drug abuse. Let us not pass up the opportunity.

The televised public confession of police officer Arthur Lascañas, claiming to be one of the trusted assassins of then Davao City Mayor and now President Rodolfo Duterte, should jolt investigative agencies into taking another look into extrajudicial killings.

It is sad to note that the authorities — including Malacañang allies in the Congress and the trolls let loose in social media – automatically moved to discredit Lascañas’ disclosures as nothing but the perjurious rant of a paid actor.

In the name of truth and the thousands of EJK victims consigned to the morgue of forgotten cases, let us listen with an open mind and take Lascañas as a cue for Take-2.

The Duterte administration should lead in nipping the budding impression that human life and basic rights in this Christian nation have become so cheap — but its lack of demonstrated concern has raised doubts as to its willingness and capacity to perform this.

As it approaches the narcotics scourge mainly as a crime and not so much as a socio-medical problem, we see the administration adopting as the expeditious solution the gunning down of suspected drug dealers and users. The intent to kill, not just to disable, is obvious.

We want to see more serious efforts to go to the root of extrajudicial killings and pinpoint responsibility. Then while working on the holistic rehabilitation of drug dependents, we can wage real war against the drug lords, the syndicates and their protectors in government.

The resurfacing of Lascañas invites us to have another look at the drug menace. Let us at least check if the conscience-stricken assassin may just be telling the substantial truth this time. Let us not be afraid of the truth.

Foreign meddling in local issues

WE HAVE been told that much of the prohibited drugs distributed in the country come from abroad, notably China that ironically professes to be a friend of President Duterte. Several local laboratories manufacturing the drugs are built and run also by Chinese.

But we have not heard of any Chinese operator being gunned down like stray dogs or like Filipino small-time users. Why so? Who protects them?

In principle, we are not happy that instead of Filipinos themselves investigating the runaway summary killings and meting out justice, foreign entities have been so alarmed as to volunteer to do the chore for us. Can’t we do it ourselves?

Last Monday, New York-based Human Rights Watch said Lascañas’ disclosures underscored the need for an independent investigation of drug-related EJKs that have passed the 7,000 mark. It said also that an honest inquiry will unmask those behind the executions.

This smacks of foreign meddling in a domestic issue. But by our failing or refusing to go to the bottom of the killings and the wanton violation of human rights, we are inviting concerned foreign entities to offer help in the name of humanity.

Worse, there is a widespread sense of a coverup going on – as if some big personalities are being shielded from public censure and criminal prosecution. Such a situation may justify outside pressure being made to bear on the administration.

After all, peoples of all nations especially of signatories to United Nations conventions are part of a universal swath of humanity enjoying the same inherent rights. By ratifying the conventions, the Philippines has allowed a measure of UN oversight in its domestic affairs.

If we feel oppressed on some domestic matters, we welcome well-meaning aid and support from overseas.

Keep De Lima, Trillanes out of cover

WE NOTE, however, HRW Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine’s saying: “The authorities should immediately drop all charges against Sen. Leila de Lima, cease their harassment of her and cooperate fully with a UN probe.

“The (Lascañas’) disclosures also suggest possible motivations for the Duterte administration’s moves to launch a politically motivated prosecution of Sen. Leila de Lima, who as chair of the Commission on Human Rights in 2009 launched the only official investigation into the Davao Death Squad killings.”

We think the bringing in of De Lima’s predicament was unfortunate, although we understand the HRW’s desire to spring the senator because of its affinity with her as a human rights advocate in prior years.

With due respect, De Lima’s record as justice secretary under the previous administration was not exactly exemplary, what with her many oppressive partisan actions and legal opinions affecting the rights of personalities targeted by the Aquino Malacañang at the time.

In fact, her legal and political problems under the Duterte administration this time look like a case of karmic justice. So if the HRW Deputy Asia Director can take a suggestion, better leave out De Lima in the instant human rights equation that can stand on its own anyway.

The same thing with Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who manages to enter the frame when Lascañas is being photographed. The senator should distance himself from him to minimize any identification that devalues the revelations of the confessed killer.

The Free Legal Assistance Group and its volunteer lawyers should be commended for their support in Lascañas’ stepping forward, at great risk to his life, to correct his previous testimony in the Senate.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 23, 2017)

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