MANILA – Criticizing Senator Leila de Lima's handling of a Senate probe on extra-judicial killings allegedly done in the name of the administration’s war on drugs, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said that hearings should be fair, and committee chairs free from bias.
Cayetano questioned De Lima's impartiality as chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and decried her apparent thinking of the government as "guilty" while hearings on extra-judicial killings are ongoing. However, he clarified that he does not question the De Lima’s chairmanship.
"Sa isip ni Senator De Lima, guilty na ang administrasyon. Paano mabibigyan ng fair na hearing ito?" he said in a privilege speech at the Senate on Wednesday afternoon.
Witnesses during the hearing are all families of suspected drug users or pushers who died during the course of the government's drug war, Cayetano said, and there are limitations placed on police who speak.
"Ano ba ang mayroon sa human rights? Due process. [Dito sa hearing ng Justice Committee], wala ka pa ngang ginagawa, guilty ka na."
He also hopes De Lima will move next week's Justice Committee hearing on September 5, as a show of support for the country, as Duterte will be attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Laos, from September 6 to 8.
NO TO ICC TRIAL
Cayetano also fired back at Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Jose Luis Martin "Chito" Gascon, who said that the government failed to investigate, prosecute or punish vigilantes allegedly behind the deaths of people suspected to be connected to the illegal drug trade.
"Saan ang sinasabi mong hindi iniimbestigahan, at hindi pinoprosecute?" he said, after showing a clip of President Rodrigo Duterte telling police that there will be "hell to pay" if they abuse their authority.
He also scoffed at Gascon's statement that the International Criminal Court (ICC) may try Philippine drug-related killings if government fails to prosecute alleged vigilantes.
The ICC cannot try cases on extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, because there is no proof that they are state-sponsored, and the state is willing and able to investigate and prosecute these cases, Cayetano said.
He further said that allegations that the government is violating human rights cannot be used to stop the war on drugs. Duterte's tough talk during his speeches is only hyperbole.
"Parati niyang sinasabi na we will operate within the confines of the Constitution. We will respect the bill of rights, respect the rule of law."
Duterte wants the Philippines to be like Singapore, the lawmaker said, where people love the law, but also fear the law.
"People know that the law will protect them, but they know that they will have to follow the law."