MANILA – The Philippine government should create an independent commission to investigate the involvement of police officers in the “extrajudicial executions” of suspected drug traffickers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.
The organization notes that the chief of the National Police in the region of Visayas, Debold Dinas, said in an interview on Oct. 31 that many of the hitmen responsible for those killings in the war on drugs are “most likely ... retired military or police officers or there are active police officers.”
Dinas made these statements following a wave of murders in recent weeks in Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines, and other parts in the central part of the country, which bear similarities to the deaths of the anti-narcotics campaign that started two years ago, when President Rodrigo Duterte took office.
“The admission by a senior police official that police officers are working as hitmen for drug syndicates is yet more evidence of Philippine government complicity in ‘drug war’ killings,” Brad Adams, the Asia director of HRW, said in a statement.
According to Adams, given the “total failure” of the police to stop these abuses, any “serious investigation of the police role in the war on drugs needs full independence,” completely independent from the Philippine National Police and the Office of the President.
HRW proposes that the commission be made up of investigators from the Human Rights Commission and representatives of non-governmental organizations with recognized experience.
An HRW investigation into killings in the anti-drug campaign revealed the “pervasive involvement of police officers who routinely falsified evidence by planting weapons and illegal drugs on suspects’ bodies.”
“Whether or not the unidentified assailants were police officers or agents of the police, the similarity of tactics used in the killings showed planning and coordination by the police and local civilian officials,” Adams explained.
According to official data, the number of people killed in police raids in more than two years of the war on drugs has risen to almost 5,000, although independent organizations have raised the figure to between 15,000-20,000 due to the climate of impunity of the campaign, which also involves vigilantes and armed neighborhood groups.