‘Duterte and Bato permitted to go to House EJK probe’

The committee on human rights of the House of Representatives is not keen on sending an invitation, much less issuing a subpoena, to former president Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, but they are free to attend its inquiry on extrajudicial killings during the previous administration’s war against illegal drugs.

Panel chairman and Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante said he is merely giving respect to the former chief executive, along with Dela Rosa – who served as Duterte’s national police chief – who will be extended inter-parliamentary courtesy being a member of the Senate.

“I would like to give full respect to the former president. Although he might not be exempt from this investigation, yet I think we should give full respect to the former president being a public official also. So we’re going to inform the former president on this,” he said.

The same thing will also apply to Dela Rosa, Abante stated.

“What I can promise is that we will be informing again Senator Dela Rosa on the next hearing, and if he would like to attend, then he can. We will tell him that if you would like to come, you are welcome,” he said.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel wanted Duterte and Dela Rosa invited to the House probe to shed light on varying reports of the Philippine National Police regarding “Oplan Tokhang” and “Oplan Double Barrel.”

Manuel insisted there were questions about the anti-drug war only the former president and his PNP chief could answer, like what he considered as “silent or vague” PNP documents such as the command memorandum circular (CMC).

Manuel said Duterte was the “primary reference” in the CMC.

Former president Duterte’s own Office of the President (OP) listed a total of 20,322 drug suspects who were killed within 17 months since he assumed office in July 2016, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Appearing before the committee on human rights chaired by Abante, Diokno said this figure, which is more than thrice the PNP’s 6,200 official count, was culled from no less than the Supreme Court.

Diokno said the SC also took note of the 2017 yearend accomplishment report of the Office of the President.

Quoting the SC resolution citing the OP report, the lawyer said a total of 20,322 drug suspects were killed between July 1, 2016 and Nov. 27, 2017, broken down as follows: 3,967 killed “by the police in operations,” and 16,355 waylaid “by riding in tandem and other unknown persons.”

Former executive secretary Salvador Medialdea told the House committee he would have to check on the figures provided by Diokno, which were sourced from SC records.

“There were various figures floated – 6,000, 30,000 and now more than 20,000. We don’t know anymore which to believe,” he told Abante.

“I don’t think I’ve seen that report,” Medialdea said, noting that if there was such an achievement report given to the SC, it was “part of the privileged communication of the Office of the President,” adding that “I cannot disclose that because I’m barred.”

Abante chided Diokno and other human rights lawyers for failing to file a “class suit” against Duterte, but the lawyer explained it was understandable because of the circumstances during that time.

“Your honor, the families of the victims were afraid – and are afraid until now – to file cases,” Diokno responded.

Abante then assured them of safety and protection if they testify before his committee.

“I myself am laying my life on the line here. They should not be afraid. This in unimaginable. I never realized this could happen,” he said.

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