(Philstar.com) – November 26, 2020
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Leila M. de Lima on Thursday slammed the extrajudicial killings linked to the administration’s flagship campaign against illegal narcotics, particularly in the Quezon City slums, which she said were unhampered by the lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The senator said the continued killings were “a product of the culture of killings” propagated by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself amid the ongoing global health crisis.
Though administration officials deny the killings, the government’s own data corroborates the uptick in the killings linked to the so-called drug war, whose targets are often members of the urban poor according to rights groups.
“When will these EJKs ever stop? EJKs per se are already diabolical and insane. But what’s more insane about all these is the fact that they all happened amid a pandemic where people struggle with ways to survive the crisis,” she said, stressing that there could be more deaths that remain unrecorded.
“How many more EJKs, mostly unreported, are happening out there? The evil of those behind these brutal killings is really frightening and disturbing,” she added in mixed Filipino and English.
De Lima cited the accounts of activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes, who claimed that another killing was recorded by his parish in October, which the senator pointed out is ironically located near the headquarters of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. It was the 12th such killing in that area, the priest said.
One victim, Melchor Unadhoy, was shot in the face with a sack jammed inside his mouth and with his fingers all crushed. He was 38 years old. Police from Baras, Rizal found his lifeless body and another victim at Brgy. Dinugay on October 11.
When the newly-minted chiefs of the Philippine National Police and the National Capital Region Police Office formally took up their posts in early November, the two signalled their intent to focus on and even intensify the administration’s drug war moving forward.
De Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, urged the Filipino public to “tirelessly demand accountability for the unabated killings happening in the country to ensure justice for all EJK victims and their families left behind.”
“In the midst of the pandemic when thousands have died, become ill and worry about their safety, the culture of violence and murder has worsened,” she said in Filipino.
As of this post, official police figures claim some 8,000 deaths that occurred in official anti-drug operations by police since Duterte’s term began in 2016. However, rights groups say the number may be as high as 30,000.
The increase in killings comes despite an earlier pronouncement by Police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, now the chief of the Philippine National Police, that the controversial “Oplan Tokhang” would be suspended for authorities to focus more on implementing the COVID-19 quarantine.
In a televised public address on Tuesday night, Duterte went as far as calling human rights advocates his “enemies,” telling them to “look for another fight.”
“This is the result of having a government led by an evil president, a butcher who has no respect for the value of life and dignity of others. Soon, Duterte will be held accountable according to our laws, especially, for God’s law,” De Lima said in Filipino.