MANILA - A Philippine Senate investigation showed there is no sufficient evidence to prove President Rodrigo Duterte's administration is sponsoring summary killings in the Philippines, nor is there proof of a so-called Davao Death Squad.
So concluded the report filed Wednesday by the Senate committees on justice, and human rights and public order, after six hearings which investigated the recent spate of extra-judicial killings.
"None of the witnesses were able to sufficiently prove that there is State-sponsored policy or order from the current administration to commit extra-judicial killings or summary killings to eradicate illegal drugs or even other crimes in the country," said the committees chaired by senators Richard Gordon and Panfilo Lacson.
"Based on the evidence presented before the Committee, there is no sufficient evidence to serve as basis for State-sponsored killings."
"Unabated and excessive" killings were also not unique to the Duterte administration as vigilante slays have been known in the last two decades under names such as "cardboard justice," "motorcycle riding-in-tandem," and "salvaging," the executive summary of the report said.
The report said the Duterte administration has tallied 4,2481 killings from July to early part of October, yielding an average of 47 killings per day over a four-month period.
In comparison, the Arroyo administration averaged 28 killings daily or a total of 91,762 slays between 2001 and 2009 or a nine-year period.
The Aquino administration, meanwhile, recorded 85,878 killings from 2010 to 2016 or equal to 40 killings per day over a six-year period.
Witnesses invited by Senator De Lima and Senator Trillanes, specifically self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato and policemen, failed to present sufficient evidence to prove the existence of a Davao Death Squad that allegedly carried out hits ordered by Duterte when he was still mayor of Davao City.
The report specifically pointed out "inconsistencies and contradictions" in Matobato's statement, particularly with regard to his service as the Duterte family's bodyguard, and the killing of suspected terrorist Sali Makdum and former House Speaker Prospero Nograles' bodyguards, among others.
WORD OF CAUTION
The panels, however, urged Duterte to be "careful with his words and avoid inappropriate statements" which may be taken as an endorsement of extra-judicial killings.
"A word of caution to the President is warranted. While there is no doubt that he has the country's best interests at heart when he waged his war against illegal drugs and criminality, his ways and methodology may not be readily understood and acceptable to all," the report said.
"He thus should seek to epitomize a man of the law, and be an exemplary role model. All Presidents must be role models in word and in deed. Leaders raise the values and performance of a people."
It added: "Children listen to him. He both has a local and an international audience who scrutinize his every move. He will all the more maintain the trust of the people when he transforms into a leader worthy of emulation, in every sense of the word."
And while many admire Duterte for publicly naming alleged drug coddlers, the report reminded him to observe due process, saying "The accused deserve their day in court to prove their innocence."
The President should likewise not just account for the misdeeds of the police, but raise their standards of accountability, to ensure that they will not abuse the crackdown on narcotics.
"When the police violate the law, they must be punished. The doctrine of command responsibility obligates the President to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the commission of an illegal act or an irresponsible omission, and to punish the perpetrator. Uncorrected or unpunished even when they have erred, the police may believe that they are above the law," the report said.
The panels also recommended the creation of a special court that will handle police cases, and a mandate on the police to release regular reports on the vigilante attacks.