After a top member of the Philippine National Police (PNP) divulged that some cops and members of the army are allegedly working as hitmen for drug lords in Cebu, New York-based organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) today called on the Philippine government to investigate the truth behind these allegations.
The admission was made by Police Regional Office in Central Visayas’ director Chief Superintendent Debold Sinas during a Facebook Live interview with Cebu Daily News late last month.
He said in a mix of Cebuano and English: “Who are these hitmen? Most likely these are retired military or police officers. Or there are active police officers we just don’t know.”
He also said that these drug lords hire these police and military officers as hitmen for their expertise.
He said: “What is the expertise of a dismissed or retired police officer? Firearms and security. So this person who has these kinds of skills is what is needed by the drug groups.”
According to The Freeman, a total of 254 persons have been killed during “legitimate” drug operations since President Rodrigo Duterte came into power in 2016.
HRW Asia director Brad Adams said that in light of Sinas’ statement, an independent probe is necessary.
“Given the total failure of the police to stop these abuses, it’s clear that any serious investigation of the police role in the war on drugs needs full independence,” he said in a statement that appeared on HRW’s website early this morning.
He added: “It’s time for an independent commission to be created to officially identify those responsible and begin the process of accountability for mass murder.”
HRW also said that their investigations have shown that there was a “pervasive involvement of police officers who routinely falsified evidence by planting weapons and illegal drugs on suspects’ bodies.”
The Philippine government, however, dismissed the HRW’s request. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo called HRW’s request an intrusion into the country’s affairs.
In a statement, Panelo said: “This proposal by the Human Rights Watch for the creation of an independent commission to go after police officers allegedly involved in the killing of drug suspects smacks of another effort of this moribund group, which projects itself as a human rights organization, to intrude into our domestic affairs.”
Panelo also said that using Sinas’ interview as the basis for the HRW’s recommendation was “not a valid ground for such a reckless proposal.”
The HRW estimates that more than 12,000 drug suspects have died from the government’s anti-drug campaign since President Rodrigo Duterte came into power. This is far higher than the PNP’s own estimate, which counted more than 4,500 suspects dying from drug operations as of July this year.