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Rights group asks government to help families of drug war victims

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

THE GOVERNMENT of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. should do more to protect the families of victims of extralegal killings and prosecute officials for the wrongful deaths, according to a human rights group.

In a statement sent on Monday evening, the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services said the government should also look into alleged falsified death certificates of drug war victims and suspected pushers.

“We push for accountability and demand what is right for the people,” Ansheline A. Bacudio, program manager at the group, said in the statement.

The group welcomed a Court of Appeals decision on Nov. 15 granting a family’s petition to correct a death certificate of a drug war victim who was killed by a stray bullet during a police drug raid in 2016.

The nine-year-old victim was initially declared dead due to pneumonia. “It would indeed be fair and equitable that the genuine cause of his death be reflected in his death certificate,” the appellate court said in a 12-page ruling.

In April, the Department of Justice (DoJ) said it would probe allegations that police had falsified the death certificates of suspected drug pushers to cover up the fact that they were killed in drug raids.

Forensic expert Raquel B. del Rosario-Fortun, who has been examining the exhumed remains of drug war victims since July, has said some death certificates showed victims dying of natural causes even if they had gunshot wounds consistent with homicide.

She told a news briefing on April 12 that at least 32 bodies of drug war victims she examined had gunshot wounds as the cause of death.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla has vowed to prosecute high-ranking policemen responsible for wrongful deaths in ex-President R. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

“That will happen,” he told BusinessWorld in a Viber message on Nov. 27 in response to calls for the government to hold top-level cops accountable for drug war killings.

The Philippines accepted 200 recommendations from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council — including investigating extralegal killings and protecting journalists — during its periodic review of the country’s human rights situation last month.

More than 30 member-states of the UN Human Rights Council have urged the Philippines to do something about extralegal killings and human rights abuses in connection with the government’s drug war.

The UN Rights Committee has said the government should cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s probe of the drug war.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has said the country’s probe of human rights abuses in the drug war lacked transparency.

At least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations, according to data released by the Philippine government in June last year. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 suspects died.

“We call upon the Philippine government and its agents for an effective and independent investigation of all alleged extrajudicial killings,” Ms. Bacudio said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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