By Darwin Pesco/Manila Times
The International Criminal Court (ICC) yesterday reported that Philippine law enforcers were involved in the rape of women targeted in the drug war.
The report said “in at least a few incidents, members of law enforcement raped women who were apparently targeted because of their personal relationships to individuals alleged to have been involved in drug activities.”
The ICC also pointed out that there were also allegations of “serious ill-treatment and abuses prior to being killed by state actors and other unidentified assailants,” as well as mental suffering by relatives witnessing the killings of the victims.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said the rape claims of ICC were only rehashed and unfounded. “The rehashed narratives of alleged abuses remain to be unfounded and devoid of truth from the beginning,” PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said in a statement.
Banac emphasised that all police operations remain legitimate with regularity and transparency.
PNP is guided by existing rules and procedures, and police involved in abuses are accountable, he said.
The ICC pointed out the number of public officials were killed because of their supposed links to the illegal drug trade. These officials include civil servants, politicians, mayors, deputy mayors and barangay (village) officials, and even current and former members of law enforcement agencies.
“According to the information available, many of the persons targeted overall by the alleged acts had been included on drug watch lists compiled by national and/or local authorities, and some of those targeted also included persons who had previously ‘surrendered’ to the police in connection to Oplan Tokhang,” the report stated.
The ICC said its Office of the Prosecutor had been monitoring reports of concern involving threats and other measures “apparently taken against human rights defenders, including those who have criticised the (war on drugs) campaign.”
“The Office will continue to closely monitor such reports, as well as other relevant developments in the Philippines,” it added.
Last week, PNP Officer in Charge Lt Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa said a recalibration of the drug war was being eyed to focus on tracking high-value targets (HVTs).
Gamboa particularly noted the vagueness in defining HVTs.
Based on the PNP’s count, from July 2016 to July 2019, 6,600 drug suspects were killed in anti-illegal drug operations and 256, 227 were arrested.
In reaction to the ICC report, former senator Antonio Trillanes 4th urged policemen, who took part in the summary execution of suspected drug personalities, to testify against President Rodrigo Duterte to avoid prosecution.
“Justice is coming. To the members of the PNP who have been a part of the EJKs (extrajudicial killings), you would have to make a decision on whether you would fall with Duterte on being liable for crimes against humanity,” Trillanes said.
Trillanes said it now depends on the concerned PNP personnel to testify against their commander in chief “or you would partly cleanse your crime by being a witness for the ICC prosecutors.”
“In fact, even Duterte won’t be able to protect himself,” said Trillanes, one of Duterte’s staunch critics.
The ICC said it could wrap up by 2020 its preliminary investigation into the charge of crimes against humanity filed against Duterte.
In its annual report posted on its website, the ICC said it had “significantly advanced” its assessment on whether there was reasonable basis to proceed with the investigation into the situation in the Philippines, particularly on the alleged EJKs committed under the Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs.
It insisted it has jurisdiction over the Philippines despite its withdrawal from the Rome Statute on March 17.
It noted that only one case of EJK had been recorded so far, that of 17-year-old Kian de los Santos who was killed in an anti-illegal drug operation in Caloocan City in 2017.
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