Calls for probe, prosecution of wrongdoers
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) slammed the "alarming spate" of extra-legal killings of suspected drug personalities amid the administration's war on drugs.
In a statement released recently, the organization of lawyers recognized the magnitude of the "drug menace" and lauded the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte's "serious attention" in addressing the problem, but it also underscored that the increasing death toll deserves "serious attention."
"We are a nation of laws and not of men, and, as such, must never lose sight of the very foundation of our democracy, the idea that the rule of law must prevail," the statement said.
The IBP urged the Philippine National Police, other law enforcement agencies, and the Office of the Ombudsman for a "serious and credible" probe of the incidents and for prosecution of the wrongdoers "to the full extent of the law."
"It must not be forgotten that regardless of whether or not the victim is a drug offender, unjustified killing is murder nonetheless. Likewise, while our law enforcers have every right, and even the duty, to utilize deadly force when necessary to protect themselves and innocent bystanders, the abuse of this authority is equally criminal," it said.
The statement cited Supreme Court ruling's reminder in the Allado vs. Diokno case.
"While the State has every right to prosecute and punish violators of the law, this does not confer a license for pointless assaults on its citizens," it said.
The right of the State to prosecute, it added, is not a "carte blanche" for law enforcers to disregard the rights of its citizens provided in the Constitution.
"The Constitution's Bill of Rights guarantees the preservation of the people's natural rights, which include personal liberty and security against invasion by the government or any of its branches or instrumentalities," it said.
"Certainly, in the hierarchy of rights, the Bill of Rights takes precedence over the right of the State to prosecute."
A study by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group noted that there has been 667 fatalities since May 10, as of posting.
MAP, CHARTS: The Death Toll of the War on Drugs