23,000 DEATHS AND COUNTING?: Gov’t is accountable for killings – lawyer

By: Angel Margareth C. Arguelles

THE government under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has a responsibility on the alarming drug war death toll, said Atty. Chel Diokno, chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group.

In a press conference on Dec. 4, 2018 at the Mango Tree in Mandurriao, Iloilo City, Diokno slammed the administration’s negative responses to the alleged extrajudicial killings (EJK).

According to a government report, there have been nearly 5,000 deaths in the anti-narcotics campaign from July 2016 to October 2018. But human rights groups believed that there are already over 20,000 deaths from these operations.

Diokno said that cases of those who have already died from the drug war should not be ignored, especially for “nanlaban” drug suspects or those who resisted arrest.

“Yung mga sinasabing nanlaban, may dokumento yan.  Kasi mismo ang pulis, inaamin nila na pinatay nila kasi nanlaban. Yung mga yan, dapat, buksan natin ang imbestigasyon niyan,” Diokno said.

He added that it is important to study PNP’s documents, know who are involve on the incidents, and run proper investigations.

If the investigation fails to prove that the drug suspect resisted, the law enforcers should be held accountable, citing the case of Kian delos Santos, who was gunned down in August 2017.

CCTV footages proved that delos Santos was dragged in a dark corner and shot. After a year, the Regional Trial Court found three police officers guilty of delos Santos’ murder.

Diokno said that the government should stop listing names “involved” in the illegal drug trade.

“Unang-una dapat ay ipagbawal na ang paglalabas ng mga listahan, yung sinasabi nilang mga narco-list o watch list. Kasi ang batayan ng mga listahan na yan, hindi naman ebidensya yan, so madaling ilagay ang pangalan ng isang taong wala naming kinalaman sa droga dyan sa mga listahan na yan,” Diokno said.

Diokno added that once a name is included into the narco-list, he or she is considered a target to Tokhang or EJK.

The human rights’ lawyer believes that justice should not come from the gun’s trigger but instead should come from the rule of law.



Diokno also tackled the widespread issue of motorcycle-riding gunmen, who are linked to drug-related deaths.

Even though law enforcers deny relations with gunmen onboard motorcycles, they are still responsible on these incidents, Diokno added.

“Kung talagang merong political will ang ating pamahalaan, hindi ko lang alam kung itong pamahalaan na ito, baka sa susunod pa na administrasyon. Dapat iimbestigahan nilang mabuti, alamin natin kung sino-sino yan at kailangan may pananagutan sila,” Diokno said.

When asked about his stand on Atty. Ben Ramos’ killing, Diokno said that he strongly condemn the incident, adding that lawyers are also being killed for upholding human rights.

In November 2018, Ramos was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen. He is the 34th lawyer killed under Duterte’s administration.

Diokno said that even lawyers killed due to guilt association should be given justice.

“Hindi porke’t ang client ko ay isang alleged murderer, ay murderer din ako [as a lawyer], hindi porke’t ang client ko ay isang alleged drug lord, ay nag drodroga din ako, hindi porke’t ang client ko ay isang aktibista, ay sabi nila ako ay komunista,” Diokno explained.

The human rights lawyer said that it is part of their legal ethics, as defenders, to be open to everyone, regardless of their backgrounds.

Diokno has represented farmers, laborers, teachers, students, journalists, soldiers and policemen, whistleblowers, and environmental groups.

Diokno, who has handled human rights cases for 30 years, will run for senator under the opposition slate in the upcoming 2019 midterm elections.

He is the son of the late Sen. Jose W. Diokno, who was arrested during the Marcos regime and was imprisoned for two years without having been charged of a single crime.

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