Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
Collateral victims are an unavoidable byproduct of any war. In the case of the Philippine government's bloody war against illegal drugs that has seen more than 6,000 killed, either by police operations, vigilante groups, or drug syndicates; these victims include a number of innocent people, including minors as young as four or five years old.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption have cited the rising number of “unfortunate killings of innocent victims and the like during the process of police operations” in its letter asking Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to assign courts that will handle the killings of innocent individuals in relation to the anti-drug war.
At the House of Representatives, Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe has urged President Duterte to create a task force to look into the victims of extrajudicial killings and has filed Resolution 655 that seeks to compensate the families of the victims as he believes the government is civilly liable for injury or death of innocent victims resulting from the war on illegal drugs.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the Commission on Human Rights which has previously called for the Department of Justice to file charges in all ‘nanlaban' cases, supports the proposal to designate special courts for cases involving collateral victims in the drug war.
CHR chairman Chito Gascon has called on President Duterte to go beyond apologizing for the unintentional deaths of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire during anti-illegal drug operations. “If the President is prepared to accept or concede that there have been persons wrongfully killed and seriously wants to set things right to prevent further occurrence, then a zero-tolerance policy for this must be pursued,” Gascon said.
An admission of collateral damage and deaths has already been made and an apology has been extended by the president in one of his media interviews. However, if Mr. Duterte's “sorry” doesn't come with concrete action or the institution of safeguards to prevent unfortunate deaths from occurring again as he wages his war against drugs, more innocent Filipinos are bound to become collateral victims as the war that was promised to end in 6 months now threatens to continue without an end in mind.
If the drug war is not going to end anytime soon, perhaps the Duterte administration can show its concern for the innocent victims of its war by endorsing the designation of special courts to dispense justice and facilitate the just compensation of innocent victims of his drug war.*