Abante urges families of drug war casualties to attend hearings

During a recent congressional hearing, Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. criticized relatives of individuals who died during the past administration’s war against illegal drugs for skipping the hearing due to fear. Abante expressed frustration with the lack of participation from victims’ relatives, stating that their fear is hindering investigators from probing alleged abuses and filing cases.

The hearing, chaired by Abante, focused on discussing the plight of drug war victims. National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) secretary general Kristina Conti explained that victims are still afraid to come forward due to fear of retaliation. She noted that the psychosocial support given to victims’ relatives takes years and public hearings can be re-traumatizing for them.

Despite the challenges, three women testified during the hearing about alleged abuses conducted by the police in implementing former President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war. One of the women, Christine Pascual, shared the story of her 17-year-old son who was killed in an anti-drug operation. Pascual emotionally recounted that her son was wrongly accused of firing at police officers, despite not knowing how to ride a motorcycle and being unarmed.

Abante assured victims’ relatives of ample protection during the investigation, urging them to muster the courage to share their stories. The House panel is investigating allegations of extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s drug war, which has been both praised for addressing the country’s drug problem and criticized for its violent methods and impact on innocent civilians.

The hearing shed light on the ongoing struggles faced by families who have lost loved ones in the drug war, emphasizing the need for justice and accountability in addressing human rights violations.

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