An initiative of the Paghilom Program was able to achieve, with the legal support of the organization IDEALS, Inc., the correction of a forged death certificate of a victim of the so-called “war on drugs” in December 2022.
9-year-old Lenin Baylon died in 2016 because of a gunshot wound in Caloocan City and not from pneumonia, as recorded in the original death certificate. The initiative was able to prove this through a forensic investigation of Baylon’s exhumed remains. In at least five cases, the forensic investigation revealed that death certificates for victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the context of the “war on drugs” were forged. The victims died not of natural causes, but due to gunshot wounds. A Reuters investigation documented the same falsification of death certificates in at least 14 cases.
Perpetrators can only be held accountable once the existence of these cases is acknowledged, according to IDEALS legal officer Francis Rupert Mangrobang. Priest Flavie Villanueva blames the “lazy and negligent police.” Villanueva is the head of the church-led Paghilom program, which provides psychosocial support to families and survivors of EJK victims.
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said on January 9, 2023, that 60% of high-ranking police officers were reported to have submitted their courtesy resignations as part of a Philippine National Police (PNP) internal investigation. On January 4, he asked his staff to resign if there was any suspicion of involvement in the illegal drug trade. Abalos announced his own resignation the following day. So far, 500-600 officials have responded to his call.
Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch, however, called this a “cynical, political move by Abalos designed to give the impression that the government is cleansing the police ranks.” He appealed to rethink the whole concept of the “war on drugs.” Conde explained that the drug problem is not a police problem, but a public health problem.
The Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) stated on January 6, 2023, that police officers involved in the illegal drug trade should not only resign but also be held accountable. The CHR also repeated its call for justice for victims of the “war on drugs.”
On December 28, 2022, President Marcos Jr. appointed Faydah Maniri Dumarpa as the second out of a total of four CHR commissioners; two CHR commissioners have yet to be appointed.
As of January 7, 2023, four people have already been killed in President Ferdinand Marcos’ “war on drugs,” based on the documentation of the university project DAHAS.
Photo © Raffy Lerma