Amid incessant reports of state-led killings in the country, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has reintroduced a measure strengthening the Philippine National Police’s Human Rights Affairs Office (PNP-HRAO) to ensure that policemen will have highest regard for human rights and the rule of law.
In filing Senate Bill (SB) No. 375 for the 18th Congress, De Lima said that police officers should not inflict, instigate or tolerate extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“While certainly, crime prevention is a core function of the police force, its role in society has also evolved, such that the PNP is also tasked, for example, to provide help for victims of domestic violence,” she said.
“This means, over and above traditional police work, the times have called for PNP to police for people,” she added.
In 2007, the National Police Commission, through Resolution No. 2007-247, provided for the activation of the PNP-HRAO which is tasked to integrate PNP efforts; review, formulate and recommend policies and programs to effectively implement human rights laws; and monitor the conduct of investigation addressing human rights violations of PNP personnel, among others.
Despite the existence of such resolution, the lady Senator from Bicol noted that the past three years have seen alarming reports of unjust assaults and killings of Filipinos – especially suspected small-time drug offenders – by law enforcement.
“In light of the spate of killings attributed to the Drug War in the Philippines, it is imperative to institutionalize a focal point within the organization to ensure that, by itself, it can take stock of issues that impact institutional competency and integrity, and address and improve them,” she said.
Since Duterte launched his war on drugs in June 2016, about 28,176 individuals have died, 5,176 of whom are considered “drug personalities” while 23,000 are victims officially recorded under the category of “homicide cases under investigation.”
De Lima’s proposed measure mandates the PNP-HRAO to develop plans, policies, and programs to ensure that PNP is compliant with human rights standards provided in treaties ratified by the Philippines.
The other duties of PNP-HRAO highlighted in the measure include, among others, its duty to undertake periodic review of assistance services of PNP, provide policy advisory service to all units of the national police, and serve as clearing house for information campaign on social issues adopted by the PNP.
A staunch critic of injustices happening in the country since Duterte became the country’s President, De Lima vowed to protect human rights even while in detention for trumped-up drug charges fabricated by the present administration.