Rights group scores DoJ

GLOBAL rights watchdog Human Rights Watch scored the Department of Justice for ending its investigation into the Davao Death Squad, saying it shows a disturbing failure to address extrajudicial killings across the Philippines allegedly linked to the government.

"The decision sends a chilling message that those responsible for targeted killings don't need to fear about being punished for their egregious crimes," HRW deputy Asia division director Phelim Kine said.

He said the decision sends a chilling message that those responsible for targeted killings do not need to fear being accountable for their crimes.

HRW Deputy Asia Vivision Director Phelim Kine

Photo credit: HRW.org

Human Rights Watch reported hundreds of people, including children as young 14, became victims of the death squads in Davao City, Tagum City and other places in the Philippines from 2009 to 2014.

Human Rights Watch uncovered compelling evidence that officials and police were directly involved in those crimes.

"The government has obligations under Philippine and international law to bring to justice those responsible for the Davao Death Squad, the Tagum Death Squad, and similar criminal operations. They have no place in a rights-respecting democratic society," said Kine.

The government should immediately reopen its investigation into the Davao Death Squad and redouble its efforts to bring the killers to justice, Kine said.

"Law enforcement officials have a duty to uphold the law and they should demonstrate their determination to do so," Kine also said.

Acting Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas said there was not enough evidence to prove the existence of the so-called Davao Death Squad since the lone witness who had linked President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to the DDS was no longer with the government's Witness Protection Program.

Caparas had earlier explained the DoJ could do little to prevent the witness from leaving the WPP because the entire program is voluntary in nature.

"The affidavit is there, but no more witness. There's really nothing there anymore," he said, adding it was pointless to continue the investigation since there are no other documents in the possession of the DoJ.

The witness, a supposed hitman of the Dds, emerged before the campaign for the May 9 national elections.

Meanwhile, Caparas said he would leave to the incoming DoJ secretary a functional DoJ, which is full of challenges, such as to supervise the DoJ more efficiently as well as its attached agencies such as the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Immigration and Bureau of Corrections.

Source: The Standard