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CHR cops out on EJK

Mario J. Mallari

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The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) never bothered to present evidence to back up claims of alleged extrajudicial killings (EJK) in the country during previous Senate investigations.

The supposed “tens of thousands of EJK” was the basis of a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)-approved resolution seeking an investigation on the rights situation in the country amid the war on drugs.

During yesterday’s “Straight Talk with Daily Tribune,” Sen. Richard Gordon stressed that the CHR, along with critics of the administration’s all-out war against illegal drugs, was not able to produce evidence of the alleged state-sponsored killings.

Gordon said he repeatedly asked for evidence to support allegations of EJK, but nothing was presented to him.

He said he even told CHR Commissioner Chito Gascon that he is willing to work on the evidence if police were sitting on them. Still, Gordon said no proof was given to him.

“There was none. What they presented was there are killings, (but) who were responsible?”
asked Gordon, who presided over several Senate hearings on the illegal drugs as chairman of the Justice Committee.

The EJK allegations were found in the Senate probe as those 80 percent of murders that goes unsolved. Gordon stressed that the burden of proof always lies on the accuser. Any allegation should be backed up by solid pieces of evidence and or credible testimonies.

Discredited pawns

Instead of solid evidence, Gordon said, the accusers presented witnesses such as Edgar Matobato and former SPO3 Arturo Lascanas, who both claimed to be part of the so-called Davao Death Squad.

“Matobato, how can you believe him, he was just an amuyong (factotum)… they brought this sergeant who turned his back against Duterte and was proved to have been asking for something but was rejected,” said Gordon.

“He can still prove his case, even if he was arrested for other charges, if he is really a credible witness and can corroborate,” he added of Matobato.

The alleged killings resulting from the Duterte administration’s all-out war against illegal drugs and the supposed deterioration of human rights situation in Manila were the basis of an Iceland-sponsored resolution calling for an investigation.

The Iceland move got the nod of 18 UNHRC members, while 14 rejected it and 15 abstained.
Gordon said such killings have been happening for so long, but there is a need to stress what is being done by the government.

“We are being hit because as if we offer our cheeks as targets. We should show them that something is being done. More importantly, we should show our people that we are doing to address the issue,” said Gordon.

“If you don’t, anti-government groups will surely use it, even the political parties that are against the administration,” he added.

Gordon stressed that he is against the entry of foreign countries to intervene into the internal affairs of the Philippines.

“I don’t want any other country to come in telling us what to do. America cannot tell me what to do,” said Gordon.

“I agree that we should welcome criticisms, we at the Senate criticize, but let me tell you the courts are functioning, the Senate is functioning, the House is functioning,” he added.

Even the Philippine National Police (PNP) has been wondering where did rights groups get the more than 20,000 alleged EJK when there were only 6,000 deaths related to the government’s war against illegal drugs since July 2016.

Despite the noise about the killings, the PNP maintained that there are no official complaints being filed.

Stay with UNHRC

Accept criticism whether valid or not. This was the advice of Gordon to Mr. Duterte following the President’s earlier pronouncement that he is seriously considering severing the Philippines’ ties with Iceland after the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted its resolution to probe the country’s war on drugs.

The senator also stressed that the Philippines should not withdraw from the UNHRC nor cut its ties with Iceland, saying that the President must accept criticisms from the UN body findings, whether valid or not.

“I don’t think we should withdraw. I think it’s right that we should be there,” said Gordon. “I think if they say that ‘Ok, we’ll accept you. Thank you very much for your comments. We accept your findings, some of them, but this is our own statistics and we will do something about this.’ That’s what the President should say,” he added.

The UNHRC last week approved the Iceland-endorsed resolution to probe the alleged widespread human rights abuses in the country.

“I don’t think we should cut ties with Iceland. We don’t have trade with them, but nonetheless they are part of the international community of nations,” said Gordon, adding that he acknowledges that there are a lot of people being killed in the country and the Philippines must show the international community that it is doing something about it.

With Elmer N. Manuel and Kristina Maralit