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Senate panel to Duterte: War on drugs must be won within the law

The Senate Committee on Justice found no proof that the Duterte administration was behind the killing of thousands of drug personalities over the past several months, a 19-page executive summary of the committee report showed.

The committee report on the alleged extrajudicial killings blamed on the anti-drug campaign has been signed by a majority of the committee members and the summary was released to the media on Wednesday night.

“There is no proof that there is state-sponsored policy to commit killings to eradicate illegal drugs in the country,” the summary of the report said.

The committee, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that “the war on drugs must be won within the legal system.”

The executive summary of Senate Committee Report No. 18 said Duterte needed "to be mindful of his role as head of State.”

It said Duterte must be careful in his words by avoiding in appropriate statements lest be accused of condoning violations of human rights and due process.

“While the people recognize his fearless naming of generals and prominent personalities, including politicians and judges, protectors of drug lords, due process must still be observed," the summary said.

"The accused deserve their day in court to prove their innocence... The war against illegal drugs must be won within the legal system, and the President must lead in reminding the people of this important message,” it added.

The summary said that based on the witnesses and evidence presented during the probe, there was no proof of a state-sponsored policy to commit killings amid the Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs.

The committee said there have been “many thousands of killings with impunity” every year in the last two decades.

There was also no evidence to prove the existence of the so-called Davao Death Squad, the summary said, despite witness Edgar Matobato’s testimony linking Duterte to killings in Davao City.

In its recommendations, the Senate panel said the police and other law enforcement officers “must be admonished” for compelling drug users to sign “voluntary surrender certificates” under the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Oplan Tokhang.

The committee also proposed the amendment of Republic Act 8551 or the PNP Reforma and Reorganization Act to enable the Internal Affairs Service to act swiftly on investigations of police personnel.

It also proposed the creation of special criminal courts for erring and abusive police officers, and the creation of a joint congressional oversight committee to monitor killings and paramilitary units.

Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV’s behavior during the course of the Senate probe was also said to have led the committee to be used as a “cockpit for partisanship.”

“Partisan politics manifested itself with disorderly results, including uncontrolled shouting, threats and intimidation, and microphone grabbing incidents,” it said.

Both De Lima and Trillanes said they have yet to read the receive a copy of the report, with Trillanes calling Gordon, chairman of the committee, as a “Duterte collaborator” over his findings. —NB, GMA News