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Karapatan: No justice for rights abuses as police killings continue, Duterte blocks access to drug war records

Press Statement

1 June 2021

Opening a few cases of killings in police anti-drug operations to investigation would not lead to accountability if police killings and abuses continue without letup, human rights watchdog Karapatan averred on Tuesday, as the group slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to block access to records of police killings in the drug war as a “clear and undeniable pronouncement that this government openly encourages impunity — and that is not intent on pursuing any form of justice for the victims of State violence and human rights abuses.”

“How many more should die before it is acknowledged that the system that drives State security forces to kill civilians needs to be changed? There are more than enough cases — enough to indicate that these are no isolated incidents of ‘abuse.’ What is clear and apparent is that these violations are brazenly conducted, at many times in full view of an audience, and while these violations continue, President Duterte is shielding the police by blocking access to records of police killings in the drug war,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

In a televised address last night, May 31, President Duterte addressed human rights groups and told them that the government cannot give all the records of police killings in the drug war due to “national security issues.” His pronouncement came at the heels of the Philippine National Police’s announcement on May 25 that it would grant the Department of Justice (DOJ) access and allow them to investigate 61 cases out of more than 7,000; newly appointed PNP Chief Guillermo Eleazar later stated that they are willing to open the rest of the cases upon the DOJ’s request.

In Brgy. Greater Fairview, Quezon City, mere hours before President Duterte’s address, Police Master Sergeant Hensie Zinampan, who appeared to be drunk, was caught on camera pulling the hair of 52-year-old Lilybeth Valdez before shooting her in the neck and killing her instantly. The incident was caught by Valdez’ grandson, who said that Valdez was buying in the nearby store when Zinampan approached and killed her following an argument between the two. On May 23, a cop killed Edwin Arnigo, an 18-year-old with autism, during a raid on a cockfighting game in Valenzuela City.

Palabay averred that the killings of Valdez and Arnigo “clearly display a governance driven by a kill-kill-kill policy that is fostering an environment of insecurity. What is clear and apparent is that the dangerous mindset of normalizing such killings is deeply ingrained among State forces, and the recent statement of President Duterte spurning efforts to seek transparency on drug war records is yet another indication of deliberate impunity — one that shows the inadequacy and even failure of domestic mechanisms — in the country as police killings and abuses remain blatantly rampant.” “What is clear and apparent is that accountability should not just be a photo op or a press release. We will be closely watching Eleazar’s actions after President Duterte’s statement, but the fact still remains — the drug war victims and their kin need answers, and they need to be afforded justice. Paying lip service to accountability, however, is not and would never be justice, and the first urgent step towards genuine justice is to end all forms of police violence and brutality, and to stop the killings in the Philippines now,” the Karapatan official ended.

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