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House panel to probe drug EJKs; Duterte not invited

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives’ committee on human rights is set to start next week its investigation on alleged extrajudicial killings related to the war on illegal drugs during the time of former president Rodrigo Duterte.

Neither Duterte nor his chief Oplan Tokhang enforcer, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, however, will be invited to the hearings.

Panel chairman Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante said their first hearing will be on May 22, where a diverse group of participants, such as relatives of drug war victims, and police officers will be invited.

Members of the Cabinet of the previous administration will also be called to shed light on issues.

“First, we must begin with the principle that each life is valuable and that each life lost is a profound tragedy,” Abante told reporters in a news briefing yesterday.

“Second, we must point out that those who lost their lives are protected by the rights granted by the Constitution, one of which is due process.”

He added that the investigation aims to “seek the truth” and gather “comprehensive information” on the alleged widespread human rights violations linked to the drug war, with the ultimate goal of developing legislation to strengthen human rights in the country.

Abante reminded the public that these victims are still deemed innocent until proven guilty.

“They are still ‘alleged drug users and dealers.’ And they have not yet been convicted because these alleged EJK victims were silenced, they were denied their rights. Now, it is our responsibility to the victims of alleged EJKs and their families to seek the truth,” he explained.

At the same time, Abante clarified that it is not the intention of his committee to pass judgment on the cases of alleged EJK victims, a point seconded by panel vice-chairman Lanao del Sur 1st District Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong.

“It’s not actually the intention of the committee to prove whether the drug campaign in the previous administration was bogus or not,” he pointed out. “The objective of the committee is to find out whether in this country, we still exercise, practice due process.

“If our legal processes are strong, then issues like this, like drug-related