By Hannah Torregoza
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has filed a resolution asking the Senate to probe the drastic increase in the number of drug-related killings in Central Luzon.
In filing Senate Resolution No. 1041, de Lima noted the unprecedented record of deaths in Central Luzon which has reportedly been referred to as the “new killing fields” of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
“The past year, various news reports show that while Metro Manila has registered a reduction on the number of deaths in their drug-related operations, nearby provinces and regions have recorded more than one death a day, specifically Central Luzon, and that it has become the new focus of the war on drugs,” de Lima said.
“It is urgent to investigate this apparent shift of focus to Central Luzon and to assess the strategy pursued by the administration’s drug war,” she said.
Data released by the Philippine National Police (PNP) last year showed that 542 drug suspects were killed in police operations in Central Luzon, accounting for 29.6 percent of the total drug operation killings in 2018.
This is in contrast to the 285 number of drug suspects killed in the National Capital Region (NCR), representing only 15.57 percent of the total.
De Lima also pointed out that police in Region III have a low number of seized illegal drugs, with Central Luzon cops only having confiscated 11.98 kilogram of shabu. The amount is greatly lower than that of the seized illegal drugs in Metro Manila which is at 143.85 kilograms.
The former justice secretary said the exodus of controversial cops from Metro Manila to Central Luzon, including among others, current Bulacan Provincial Director Chito Bersaluna, who was the Caloocan City Police chief amid the killing of Kian delos Santos in 2017, raises questions.
“The manner of executions reflects the killings made here in Metro Manila, the difference being the drug operations are committed in another area, with new victims,” she pointed out.
“It is imperative to look into these factual and legal issues relating to these killings and determine whether these killings were products of legitimate police operations; the rights of suspects or persons subject of operations have been observed; and existing procedures on arrest, seizure and arrest have been complied with,” she stressed.
She said the Senate can help push measures that ensure that police forces are prevented from abusing their power especially during legitimate operations against drug offenders.
“Congress through relevant and appropriate legislation must end the perpetration of the culture of impunity by facilitating the enforcement of the full extent of the law against persons, both state and non-state actors, responsible for summary killings,” de Lima said.