Stroking her tears, Llore Pasco always wonders if she has done enough to protect her children, Crisanto, father of four and security guard, and Juan Carlos, bachelor and part-time electric bill collector and former goalkeeper .
It has been more than four years since the brothers disappeared from their hometown in Metro Manila on May 11, 2017. That morning, Crisanto had left early to apply for a driver’s license, never to return. At noon, Llore’s family began to worry when they realized that Juan Carlos was not there at all.
His concern turned to shock and grief after learning on television the following day that the brothers were dead. Reports said they were killed in a police operation after an alleged robbery not far from where they were staying in Quezon City, a part of the sprawling capital of the Philippines.
Llore was immediately suspected of playing dirty. His suspicions grew when he discovered that his children were holding more than a dozen guns each, even in his forehead.
Llore admits that her children had previously experimented with the drug and had fallen prey to the “wrong crowd”.
But it was many years ago before President Rodrigo Duterte took office, he said. Although they presented themselves to the authorities at the beginning of the president’s anti-drug crackdown in mid-2016. DI Missing the objections of her sons, she had insisted that they refer them to the head of the country, because “they had nothing to hide though.”
“Sometimes, I always wondered if it was all my fault,” he said, his voice cracking.
It would take another week and a heavy $ 1500 fee for Llore to retrieve his bullet-ridden bodies.
“I really love my children … the pain never goes away,” Llore said, speaking of the “indignities” her family was subjected to.
Llore’s testimony is included among the additional evidence and testimony that an independent human rights group, INVESTIGATE PH, is seeking to submit to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has initiated a preliminary investigation into the so-called “war of attrition”. the president’s “drugs” after the deaths of thousands of people. Llore had previously submitted tests to the CPI.
INVESTIGATE PH is one of numerous human rights groups supporting the call by recently retired ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for the Hague tribunal to formally examine accused of “crimes against humanity by murder” committed during Duterte’s war on drugs.
The families of the victims have until August 13 to present to the CPI additional documents detailing the abuse of rights allegedly committed by the Duterte administration.
On Wednesday, Llore told Al Jazeera that at least eight families in his group are presenting additional evidence to the CPI. Wednesday evening they had another meeting with the families of other victims to convince them to join their cause.
Several investigations have revealed that police are coordinating with vigilantes to orchestrate extrajudicial killings. Police are suspected of falsely incriminating the victims of the murder through planting tests. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/Oyjp5kzrYO
– investigate.ph (@Investigate_PH) July 6, 2021
Duterte ‘criminal responsible’
The latest government data show that by the end of April 2021, police and security forces had killed at least 6,117 suspected drug traffickers during operations, even though figures cited by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have shown that more than 8,600 had already been killed by March 2020.
A Philippine police report in 2017 also referred to 16,355 “homicide cases under investigation” as part of their “successes” in the drug war.
In December 2016, Al Jazeera reported more than 6,000 deaths in the drug war. He asked the inconsistency of the government record keeping system is the possible “manipulation” of data.
Rights groups say the death toll could be at least 27,000, including those killed by “unknown” gunmen, some of whom have been revealed. cleaning officers.
INVESTIGATE PH said in a statement to Al Jazeera that it also wants the UN Human Rights Council to act and “ensure” that Duterte is “held criminally liable for official orders” that are supported by his countless statements. to “kill drug users and dissidents.”
The rights group says the Philippine government itself should be held responsible for the “thousands of extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and disappearances” among other rights violations.
Duterte and his senior officials have defended the tactics of the police operation, saying there is a “presumption of regularity.” despite public statements by the president, demanding that the police “kill” the suspects.
In response to a question posted by Al Jazeera during a recent online forum, Philippine Police Commander General Guillermo Eleazar said that in the last five years of the Duterte administration, violent crimes have been reduced by the 59 percent – many of whom said they were linked to the drug trade.
“I have seen with my own eyes the devastating effect of the drug … and now everyone could admit that our communities are safer. If it is true that it is not a perfect situation for us, but we have taken steps forward. , ”said Eleazar, who was district police commander in Metro Manila at the beginning of Duterte’s tenure.
Over the course of five years, more than 290,000 drug suspects have been arrested and about two percent of those have died, Eleazar said. He said all those who were killed fought against the authorities and promised to investigate the allegations of abuse.
But Eleazar acknowledges that drug problems in the Philippines have not yet been resolved while maintaining that progress has been made. Many of the drug unions’ “big time” operators, many of whom are based “outside the country,” have also been arrested, he said.
Among those identified is the alleged “drug lord” Peter Lim, who has been photographed several times alongside Duterte. Earlier this month, authorities said it was possible that Lim had already left the country despite a 2018 indictment for drug charges.
PNP Chief: There is no clear information on the whereabouts of drug suspect Peter Lim https://t.co/UGOetMNumS
– ABS-CBN News Channel (@ANCALERTS) July 3, 2021
Template for abuse
INVESTIGATE PH says that despite increased pressure from the international community, the Philippine police have refused to forward most of the killings to the justice department as legally required. The most recent request was rejected last month, according to the group.
The “lack of redress” for the alleged abuses, police attempts to “routinely cover up the circumstances of the killings in anti-drug operations,” as well as documented efforts to “intimidate” families and potential witnesses, only lead to to the most abuse and “state terror” under the Duterte administration, the report said.
The report states that the “systematic killing machine” developed under the president’s war on drugs is now being transformed into a model for other abuses such as going after perceived enemies of the Duterte administration, including political opponents, church workers and activists.
The report also accuses government forces of failing to distinguish between Muslim fighters and civilians under the guise of their “war on terror” on the southern island of Mindanao, which has led to the massive displacement of Muslim communities.
INVESTIGATE PH also demands “accountability and an end to injustice” in the Philippines, says Australian Senator Janet Rice, who is part of the independent human rights commission of inquiry.
“Throughout the investigation, we have stood firm in our goal to bring justice to victims of human rights violations in the Philippines,” Rice said in a statement.
The CPI is due to take its decision by mid-August if it is conducting the formal investigation into Duterte’s war on drugs.
“Drug war failed”
Observers say it is likely that the ICC investigation will move to the next stage.
Neri Colmenares, a former member of Congress and human rights lawyer, notes that British lawyer Karim Khan, who succeeded Bensouda as ICC prosecutor, already knows the war on drugs in the Philippines.
“I see no reason why it would be difficult to investigate.” His background knowledge of what is happening here, and other crimes against humanity and war crimes around the world is widespread, ”Colmenares said in a recent online forum.
Colmenares also said that despite the ferocity of Duterte’s war on drugs, “it is clear that his policy is a failure.”
“For all the deaths related to the drug war, have we really solved the drug problem? Are we better off now as a nation? Corruption is still there, drugs are still prevalent and crimes are still committed. It’s clear that it is a failure, and that President Duterte is incompetent, ”Colmenares told Al Jazeera.
The Duterte administration dismissed the latest developments at the CPI as “politically motivated”.
Duterte spokesman Harry Roque said the Philippine government will not cooperate with any effort from The Hague, citing the president’s decision to withdraw its ICC membership in 2019.
Duterte himself said in June that will not participate in the ICC’s legal deliberation, threatening to “slap” the court’s judges while calling the international body “bulls ** t”.
But former Dean of Pacific College of Law University Dean Pacifico Agabin warns that Duterte’s legal strategy is not advisable and may even resume, as it only shortens the time for the CPI to review the case and proceed with the formal process, during which the court could also issue an arrest warrant.
“You are the president.” [Duterte] will not participate, then the investigation will proceed much faster, ”Agabin explained during the same online forum.
By participating in the investigation, Duterte and his lawyers will be given time to review the evidence presented and to discuss any inconsistencies they may find, thus lengthening the process, the highly respected legal expert said.
Tony La Vina, dean of the University School of Government in Manila, agreed, saying Duterte’s team would be well advised to participate in the ICC probe. “They have a better chance of appearing, instead of not appearing.”
Participating in the investigation, however, the Duterte administration would also be required to allow ICC investigators to travel to the Philippines and conduct their own probe.
But even without Duterte’s cooperation, it could still take time for the ICC to proceed with the trial and reach a verdict, La Vina said, citing previous cases in Kosovo and Rwanda.
“But the long arm of law and justice will come to you in one form or another.” And sometimes, it will only be history that will make this judgment. But the judgment will always be made. “
While she awaits the ICC’s decision, Llore, the mother of the murdered brothers Crisanto and Juan Carlos, says the torment of murder still haunts her.
Last March, a village official had visited Crisanto’s home in search of Juan Carlos. A village official would come to inform the family that Juan Carlos “has already been released from drug use,” Llore said, calling him a slap in the face.
Faced with the prospect of a lengthy trial, Llore says she is ready to wait until justice is done.
“The only hope is that one day we will eventually come to justice, which already gives me enough strength to fight. Duterte will have to count all his actions.”