Sen. Leila de Lima on Tuesday delivered a privilege speech on the spate of extra-judicial and vigilante killings in the war on drugs of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine National Police.
De Lima, former human rights commissioner and chair of the Senate justice and human rights committee, and the Senate public order and illegal drugs chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, have called for a joint Senate probe into the killings.
THE REAL CRISIS WE FACE: STOP THE KILLINGS NOW!
Privilege Speech of Senator Leila M. de Lima
Mr. President, my fellow Senators, mga minamahal kong kababayan: Magandang araw po sa inyong lahat.
I rise on matters of personal and collective privilege concerning a number of issues that now dominate the news and divide our people.
Our nation is in crisis. This crisis is the real and present danger posed by the illegal drug trade overwhelming our national fabric. Drug addiction, drug-pushing, and drug- related crimes, including bribery and corruption of our public officials and the penetration of our institutions by powerful drug syndicates, threaten our government, our people, and our society.
Any person undergoing a deep and profound personal crisis defends himself from the threat that brought the crisis into his life. In the same way, the nation must defend itself against the threat of the illegal drug trade lording over every aspect of our everyday lives. For so long we have been complacent about the magnitude of the problem. We have been indifferent to the number of drug pushers that have invaded our communities. We stayed silent as our impoverished youth succumbed to the promise of temporary escape from their harsh and brutish life, in the urban and rural areas, and became drug- dependents.
This was the state of a nation in crisis under the threat of illegal drugs, until the overwhelming voice of the people voted to office the anti-drug crusader and Mayor of Davao City as President of the Republic, none other than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
The President carried a clear and distinct, almost one-track message that reverberated in the consciousness of our people. It cascaded down to the smallest communities that are the victims of drug-pushers and drug addicts. Finally, it was channelled back to the national level in the form of a resonating mandate that said: “Yes Mayor Digong, rid us of this drug menace any which way you can. We are giving you that mandate to clean our city’s streets of drugs and, if need be, dispose of all drug lords and pushers the best way you see fit, hogtied and lifeless not being an exception”.
Mr. President, I AGREE. The nation is confronted with a drug crisis that has been ignored in focus for so many years. The nation must be saved. The people must be defended. War has been declared upon us, and so war must be waged.
I am with President Duterte every step of the way in his war on drugs. I myself started the war on drugs at the National Bilibid Prison. On December 15, 2014, I personally led the raid on the drug lords’ dens and took away their power over the rest of the prisoners. I isolated them in Building 14 of the National Penitentiary. This raid started at different entry points of the prison compound in order to catch the drug lords literally with their pants down. It can be described as systematically executed simultaneous raids on each and every drug lord’s luxury kubol.
I praise the President’s determination to make this campaign the centerpiece of his administration, when he essentially said: “Kahit wala na akong ibang gawin hanggang sa katapusan ng aking termino, kung hindi wakasan ang salot ng droga sa bansang ito”. I myself continued cleaning up the National Bilibid Prison of drugs, in follow-up operations before I resigned as Secretary of Justice. This anti-drug campaign at the Bilibid eventually culminated with OPLAN Galugad. Together with this is the confirmation that there is no shabu laboratory inside the national penitentiary.
Yes Mr. President, there is no shabu laboratory inside the Bilibid Prison, not even in the tunnels under it. Those who will search the tunnels will get a whiff not of the smell of cooking methamphetamine, but of methane that comes from the human waste of the prisoners above.
Sa termino ko lang po bilang Justice Secretary nag-umpisang maglinis sa Bilibid. Sa termino ko lang po giniba ang mga mararangyang kubol ng drug lords at naitapon sila sa Building 14, hiwalay sa mga ordinaryong preso. But of course, all of this has been sorely forgotten in the face of a formidable demolition campaign against me in the social media.
This is where I raise the matter of personal privilege.
Mr. President, I have been vilified and attacked, not only in social media but also by the President’s men, as a drug lord coddler and protector. I have been ridiculed and called names in social media. Photos are photoshopped, videos are spliced, lies are manufactured. The magnitude of the propaganda and misinformation is mind-boggling, considering that this is all directed at me. The lies are intended to show me as protector of the Bilibid drug lords. But the truth is I was the only Justice Secretary since the 1986 EDSA Revolution who dared to eradicate the dominion of the drug lords inside Bilibid.
I was put to task by no less than the Speaker of the House, as a sitting Senator of the same Congress that he leads. According to him, a resolution will be filed for an investigation on my alleged role in the proliferation of drugs inside the National Bilibid Prison. Mr. President, this not only goes against inter-parliamentary courtesy, where the House of Representatives investigates a specific member of its co-equal Senate. It is an affront to the Senate as an institution committed by none other than the leader of its co- equal body in Congress.
But I will not use that time-honored principle as my primary defense.
My first defense is common sense. The Speaker of the House promised the investigation of the former Justice Secretary, the Secretary who has been sued and brought to court by the same drug lords subjected to a raid and then secluded inside NBP Bldg. 14. The Speaker intends to investigate me who, like the President and PNP Chief Bato dela Rosa, also received death threats from drug lords, for my success in isolating them from the rest of the prisoners, and for preventing them from further conducting their drug trade operations from within the walls of the national penitentiary.
My defense against the Speaker’s call for my investigation in the House is not inter- parliamentary courtesy. That is YOUR defense, Mr. President, when you defend me as a Senator of the Republic and this Senate as an institution from this blatant break of tradition in courtesy between the two Houses, and whenever you decide to demand an end to all this foolishness, before it blows up in our faces. AS I SO RESPECTFULLY REQUEST NOW, Mr. President.
My defense against all this vilification is my untarnished record and reputation as a public servant, before this demolition job was launched against me both in the social media and by the Solicitor General. My defense is my selfless dedication as the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, as the Secretary of Justice, and now as Senator of the Republic.
Unlike the well-oiled social media operation that has been singularly organized to cause my vilification, I have no money, I have no resources. My friends consider it a blessing that I was elected Senator through sheer determination and the generosity of relatives, friends and supporters.
Last Friday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre claimed that high-ranking DOJ officials from the previous administration were in the payroll of the NBP drug lords. Secretary Aguirre did not mention my name, but going by the previous statements of the Solicitor General and the Speaker, one does not have to be a genius to guess who he is referring to. I am outraged that he has qualified this matter-of-fact statement with the actual truth that he has yet to create a task force that will yet conduct an actual investigation on his foregone conclusion that indeed there were pay-offs to DOJ officials. Mr. President, this is the Justice Secretary confused about his law school memory on how due process works. ACCUSE ONLY AFTER YOU INVESTIGATE.
In so many ways, and in all sense of the phrase, the President’s men have stood up the world on its head. It is time to put the world back on its feet. Binaligtad na po nila lahat ng kwento tungkol sa maganda nating nagawa sa DOJ, ni wala pa palang imbestigasyon.
Despite this, I am still giving the Solicitor General, the Speaker, and the Secretary of Justice the benefit of the doubt. It is possible that they are merely being peddled these lies about me by agents of vengeance. Pakiusap ko lang sana ay bago nila paniwalaan ang mga kasinungalingan ng mga nasagasaan ko noon, ay suriin muna nila ang mga karakter at motibasyon ng mga taong ito. Huwag naman sana silang basta-basta na lang humusga, at patungan ako ng cardboard at balutin ng packing tape.
Mr. President. MY ONLY DEFENSE IS MY HONOR AND MY INTEGRITY.
This well-oiled social media operation intends to take that away from me. In the eyes of the people they have already succeeded to a great extent. They project me as an enemy of this administration, that I am calling for an investigation on the drug killings because I am a drug lord coddler, that I am against the war on drugs because I am protecting the drug trade.
I cannot stay silent in the face of all these blatant lies created in the backroom of a media strategy office suite. I will not fall without a fight. I will not go into that good night without nary a whimper, while all these misguided men use the President’s war against drugs as their platform to destroy any elected public official who dares question the methods by which this war is waged. I will not surrender my mandate as a Senator of the Republic to these unelected and unaccountable personalities whose own motivations in the demolition of my person is highly questionable and utterly despicable. I cannot let these men run this demolition outfit only for them to accomplish their own personal and political agendas, to curry favor with the President, and to get a larger share of the spoils of Executive Power.
Napagsasamantalahan nila ang bawat pagkakataon sa ngalan ng ambisyon at pansariling interes. Hindi natin pwedeng hayaan na magpatuloy ang grupong ito sa hangarin nilang siraan ang lahat ng balakid sa kanilang ambisyon sa kapangyarihan, gamit ang kanilang pagkamalapit sa Pangulo ng ating bansa. Ang tanong lang naman nila sa sarili nila ay “What are we in power for?” They generate acclamation, or foment fear, whichever works for them.
Mr. President, they are doing this to a sitting Senator. This is not only an attack against me, but against any senator who dares to be outspoken. Pagkatapos ko, sino ang isusunod sa inyo na mangahas na tumiwalag sa kanilang martsa, na hindi sasayaw sa kanilang musika? That is why ultimately, this is an attack on the Senate as an independent institution.
We cannot let anyone use the misfortune of this nation in this drug crisis to advance personal or political agendas. We cannot let anyone use the drug crisis we are now facing to silence all dissenting voices. If we let anyone do these, there will be no single voice left to warn us of our backslide to the depths of barbarity. We do not want a situation where not a single dissenter is left to remind the people that they have just traded the drug crisis with another one: THE CRISIS OF OUR FAILED HUMANITY AS A NATION.
We cannot go on being indifferent to the daily executions, without ultimately becoming a nation bound by a collective sociopathy. The day has already come when we can no longer tell who is morally wrong among us: the nine-year old street child sniffing rugby, or the policeman who shoots the child in the head for sniffing rugby. This is our descent as a nation into the darkness that these men have created for us.
Of course, we must face this drug crisis as a nation. So many have already fallen as victims, both in the number of drug users, and in the number of ruined families.
Yes, Mr. President, indeed, we must wage this war against drugs. But there must be another way. There HAS to be another way.
There must be a way other than this method that brings us to our collective descent into impunity, fear, and ultimately, utter and complete inhumanity. We cannot wage the war against drugs with blood. We will only be trading drug addiction with another more malevolent kind of addiction. This is the compulsion for more killing, killings that have now included the innocent. There are now more mistaken identities and collateral damage. And the proportion is rising. Why is the proportion of collateral damage rising?
Mr. President, IMPUNITY, ONCE UNLEASHED, HAS NO BOUNDARIES. It does not care who dies. It does not care who suffers. It does not care who the victims are. Impunity has no sense of right or wrong. It is as amoral as it is immoral.
As a human rights advocate and human being, I plead to the government, this Administration, and to the President. There must be another way. There has to be another way.
WE MUST FIND ANOTHER WAY.
I fully support the war on drugs, and I sincerely desire its success. I am one with the President in his relentless and sustained campaign to rid our country of the drug menace. Nais ko lang na ang ating mga pulis at iba pang law enforcement agents ay maging totoong mga alagad ng batas, na sumusunod sila sa batas habang pinaiiral ito, na tumatalima sila sa mga patakaran at pamantayan sa pagsugpo ng krimen at pagdakip sa mga nagkasala, na isinasaalang-alang nila ang pangingibabaw ng batas sa kanilang pagtupad sa tungkulin.
My concern is not only the killings tallied by the PNP as the formal law enforcement agency. At least we can put the PNP to task in our official legislative investigations. My gravest concern lies with the vigilantes of the night now operating almost all over the country, those harbingers of death spreading the apocalypse of our dehumanization. They match with vigor the killings carried out by the official PNP. These people we cannot serve with the Summons of the Senate. They are faceless, as they are unaccountable.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported 395 alleged drug offenders killed in alleged police operations from July 1 to August 1. The daily average is as high as 13 dead during the past one month of the current administration. Higher figures are even reported by certain media outlets. I am not saying that all of the killings are summary executions. But there are telltale signs that several are. A number of complaints were already filed with the Commission on Human Rights.
On top of these are the vigilantes carrying out an ersatz kind of justice: CARDBOARD JUSTICE. It is reported that as of July 29, 2016, 259 human beings were killed in the hands of these assassins, several of them bystanders or victims of mistaken identity.
At late night of July 21, in a Malabon City public cemetery, shot dead were five (5), including a mother and her son who were then celebrating his birthday. The unidentified men who sprayed bullets on the group left a cardboard sign that tagged them collectively as “drug pushers.” The local police, whose outpost stood only about 30 meters from the massacre site, later came up with an incident report linking only two of the victims to the drug trade.
On July 19, an 18-year-old student was just in front of his house in Pangasinan, feeding his dog, when motorcycle-riding gunmen approached him and asked for his father. When he was unable to reply, they just shot him dead.
On July 9, anti-drug operations had turned Barangay Purok Islam, in Matalam, North Cotabato into a virtual ghost town, as many residents left for their safety. One raid produced eight (8) deaths. At 2 a.m., heavily armed policemen barged into a house of drug suspects while they were asleep. Some residents claimed that the victims were summarily executed in their bedrooms. A mother of the two (2) victims said: “[It was an] overkill. My sons were unarmed. We were treated like animals.”
From July 8 to 9, three (3) bodies were found separately in Manila with cardboards attached to them saying “Pusher, holdaper ako. Huwag tularan.” The first body was found under a bridge in Sta. Cruz; the second in front of the Metropolitan Theater; the third in front of a golf course on Bonifacio Drive. Their bodies were wrapped in packing tape and bore stab wounds.
On July 6, two (2) women and a man were found dead at an irrigation canal in Llanera, Nueva Ecija. They were found floating in the waterway, blindfolded and hogtied. They were claimed to be part of the municipal drug watch list.
At around 3 in the morning of July 5, in Muntinlupa City, two (2) brothers were killed by the police. They were on their way to a hospital for a medical exam following their arrest when they allegedly tried to grab the gun of their police escort. While their mother admitted that his older son was a small-time drug pusher, her younger son was innocent and was never involved in illegal drugs.
On July 3, five (5) men were shot dead in what the police said was a follow-up anti- drug operation in the Golden Mosque compound in Quiapo, Manila. The wife of one of the five deceased claimed there was no shootout. “My husband was only trying to fix our water supply that morning when he was shot. He was unarmed,” the wife explained. “We are so poor that we can barely afford to buy food. How can we even buy a gun?”
And so the gorefest continues.
The fact that our attention span has waned as I enumerated only a fraction of these killings already shows how desensitized we have grown to the killings as mere numbers and statistics. We now casually eat our breakfast watching human beings wrapped in packing tape, or lying in pools of blood. Sa araw-araw na lang na ginawa ng Diyos mula nang naging malinaw ang resulta ng nakaraang eleksyon, , nasanay na tayo na ang ating almusal ay suman na bangkay at dinuguan.
We must force ourselves to be reminded that the victims are always flesh and blood to their families and loved ones. Hindi sila suman o dinuguan.
The killings have become so common the mass media has settled for fill-in-the- blank template news reports, differing only in the place, time and name of the victim. If the victim even has a name. The “What” and the “How” remain the same. News write-ups carry the standard explanation for cardboard justice. But how are we exactly to know if the killings were simply cover-ups for the involvement of members of the police in the drug trade, or just simple cases of personal vendetta?
Mr. President, TRUTH now, in this country, are lines of acrylic marker on a cardboard. Kahit ano na lang isulat sa cardboard ay pinapaniwalaan na kaagad. This is just a variation of the MEME in social media. Get a photo, get a cardboard, write words, and the people will believe anything. Both the vigilantes and the social media operators take this nation as a nation of MEME believers.
Tama na po ang mga MEME. Tama na po ang Cardboard. Mas malalim po ang katotohanan.
While the social media operators introduced to us DIY Truth, the vigilantes have introduced to us DIY Justice. Never mind the police investigation, never mind the public prosecutor, never mind the courts and judges. This is DO-IT-YOURSELF Justice at work. All you need is an acrylic marker, a cardboard, some packing tape, and of course, something to stab or shoot the victim with. And there is no filing fee.
As for the killings carried out supposedly in pursuit of police work, there is the usual explanation that the executions were done in the course of legitimate law enforcement operations. Nanlaban daw. Nakipagbarilan daw. Nang-agaw daw ng baril habang naka-posas. Pero alam naman natin na minsan ay style bulok na yang mga paliwanag na yan. We are aware of incidents of police rub-outs. We know about the shortcuts taken by some law enforcers in the guise of self-defense. The use of force, it appears in some cases, may not be necessary, or, if necessary, was not proportional.
We still have a system of law that processes and punishes wrongdoers. We have our Bill of Rights that accord the right to be presumed innocent. What is worrisome in this situation is that the war on drugs is becoming a convenient pretext for misguided or utterly corrupt law enforcers to kill just any one.
Ang magagandang layunin ng gyera laban sa droga ay nasisira nitong mga karumal-dumal na pagpatay. Tandaan sana natin na ang pagpatay na walang katwiran at walang legal na basehan ay krimeng malinaw. Ito ay iligal. Ito ay imoral.
I must admit, the public reaction to these executions is not in favor of those who oppose it. A 91% approval rating for the President and what he stands for is a formidable record. But we cannot base our reactions to these killings on the popularity of the President. Popular or not, MURDER MUST STOP. S-T-O-P. STOP. Stop the killings now!
There might not be a manifest public outcry, but there is definitely a seething undercurrent of remonstration against the disregard for human life.
Students armed with nothing but courage and conviction have started to act. They are protesting with cardboards on their chests, telling us that no one is safe. If these students, who do not have the protection of position or power, raise their voice against these daily assassinations and rub-outs, what does that make of me, an elected senator, if I keep silent?
Last Friday, the Ateneo de Manila University, through its President Fr. Jet Villarin, issued a statement condemning the nation’s acceptance of these killings as the new normal. Before that, De La Salle University President, Br. Jose Mari Jimenez, urged the La Sallian community in a pastoral letter to make a stand against the culture of death.
Ateneo has reason to cry. Its Math teacher, Emmanuel Jose Pavia, was killed while on his way home. The motive for his murder is lost in the hundreds of street assassinations now taking place. Impunity, once unleashed, has no limits. It simply does not care about the nuances of who gets killed, and why.
The message is this: Let us not wait until another Atenean on his way home is killed. Let us not wait until a La Sallian is killed. Let us not wait until another student or teacher from any other school, or a worker or commuter or motorist, is killed.
The statement of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines reminds us that the murder of drug suspects is still murder under the rule of law. My own former office, the Commission on Human Rights led by Chairperson Chito Gascon, has already taken steps to investigate cases of mistaken identity and collateral damage, aside from cases where families of drug suspects had courage enough to file complaints. The relatives of the collateral damage victims are the indignant voices that tell us of the extent this bloody purge has spilled over to the innocent commuter and ordinary civilian.
The Sunday before the State of the Nation Address, the Inquirer’s headline was God’s Fifth Commandment: THOU SHALL NOT KILL. The Church is speaking to us. "Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being." 1
Mr. President, these are the voices trying to wake up a person sound asleep while his house is burning. But he is in a hallucinating dream of a country’s redemption by bloodletting. It is just that the fire has not yet seared his flesh, and the blood has not yet reached his doorsteps. The Roman poet Dante said: “[t]he hottest place in hell is reserved to those, who, in times of moral crisis, refuse to take a stand.”
If we are to shirk from our natural, moral and legal duty to condemn the abuses of power, to condemn any and all wrongdoings, the victims of our silence are not only the summarily killed, but values that are sacred and universal: the very right to life, the rule of law, due process, and justice for all.
Mr. President, drugs destroy lives, but we need not destroy lives to destroy drugs.
Ang paggalang sa buhay ay hindi balakid sa pagsugpo ng droga at mga krimen. May mga paraan at mekanismo sa ilalim ng ating mga batas upang maisagawa ang gyera laban sa droga habang itinataguyod ang pangingibabaw ng batas at pag-iral ng karapatang pantao. Our legal arsenal is equipped. It should be strengthened to carry out the objectives of this war on drugs. The war on drugs can be waged without sacrificing the sacredness of life, obedience to the rule of law, and adherence to human rights.
Freddie Aguilar once sang: “Higit sa lahat ay tao.”
This is the biggest truth: “Higit sa lahat ay tao. Higit sa lahat ay buhay.”
The right to life is the most ancient and most basic of all human rights. It is the source of all human rights. The UN Declaration on Human Rights proclaims that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) declares that “every human being has the inherent right to life” and that “this right shall be protected by law.” “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” Our Bill of Rights commands that “no person shall be deprived of life … without due process of law.” Section 11 of Article II of our Constitution proclaims that “[t]he State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”
The international community declares the inviolability of the right to life, of whatever race, color, creed, religion, age, status, gender or circumstance. The civilized nations of the world keep watch on any country that shows a disregard for the right to life, especially systemic violations that indicate government inaction, or worse, state- sanctioned abuses. We have to show the world that the Philippines continues to stand with the rest of humanity in condemning and putting a stop to any and all forms of systemic and widespread extra-judicial killings, whether perpetrated by the State or by non-state actors.
Mr. President, in this light, I filed Proposed Senate Resolution No. 9, calling for a congressional inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the spate of extrajudicial killings and summary executions.
Ito ang aking pakay: Palakasin ang gyera laban sa droga at kriminalidad sa pamamagitan ng pagsawata sa mga iligal na pagpatay. Magpanukala ng mga nararapat na batas at alituntunin upang tulungan ang ating kapulisan sa kanilang tamang pagtupad ng tungkulin. At higit sa lahat, palakasin pa ang sistema ng ating mga batas para matiyak ang pag-iral ng batas at paggalang sa karapatang pantao.
Malinaw na ang laban na ito ay hindi lamang pansariling laban ni Leila de Lima. Ito ay laban ng mga karaniwang Pilipino para sa pagbabago, para sa pagyabong ng buhay, para sa kaginhawaan ng pamilya, para sa katiwasayan ng pamayananan, para sa kaayusan ng pamahalaan, at para sa kabutihan ng lahat.
If this Administration is sincerely concerned about the spate of killings of suspected criminals, as it pronounced once before the media, then it should welcome this Senate inquiry. However, even before any Senate Resolution was filed, the Solicitor General and the PNP Chief have already made pronouncements that they will not attend any Senate inquiry, even when invited or summoned. This premature position of some Administration officials is regrettable.
The bloody drug war advocates are fomenting a hate campaign against those in the media, civil society, the religious and private sectors, and the academe. Despite this hate campaign, we have to continue opposing the murder of the innocents as well as that of the suspects. We must call for the accountability of state actors responsible for this terrifying trend in law enforcement, and the investigation of killings perpetrated by the vigilante assassins.
In the campaign against criminality, we cannot applaud criminal methods merely because we are left unaffected. Life has more value than an accusation written on a piece of cardboard, whether you are rich, or a scum of the earth.
Mr. President, needless to say, ALL LIVES MATTER.
Katulad po ng pagmamahal ko sa aking dalawang anak at sa dalawa kong apo, mahal ko po ang bayang ito. Katulad po ninyo mga kapwa ko Senador, mga kababayan, mahal ko ang bayang ito. Katulad po ninyo Mahal na Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte, mahal ko po ang bayang ito.
Hayaan ninyo akong mahalin ang bayan natin sa pamamaraan na naaayon sa aking damdamin at sa aking tungkulin. Hayaan ninyo akong maging boses ng mga hampaslupang walang kapangyarihan, dahil marami na sa atin ang boses ng mga nasa kapangyarihan.
It is the powerless and the helpless who most need our love and protection, not the powerful.
My fellow Senators, that is what we are in power for.
Kaya po tayo binigyan ng kapangyarihan bilang mga Senador, para mahalin ang mga walang kapangyarihan at tulungan sila na sagipin ang kanilang sarili, mula man sa pag-abuso ng droga, o sa pangkalahatang paghihirap sa buhay. Ang ating kapangyarihan ay para sa mga walang kapangyarihan. Ang ating pag-aruga ay para sa mga nangangailangan ng ating tulong at pag-unawa.
Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat