Investigating the Drug Killings

It’s no secret that many are unhappy with the way the congressional investigations into the so-called “drug war” and related killings here in the Philippines. If I were in charge of these investigations, these are the some of the questions I’d want answered:

(Disclaimers: I’m not a lawyer or any kind of expert. Understandably, the resource persons may be reluctant to answer some of these in open session, in which case an executive session could be done. Some may have already been asked/answered during the hearings and I just missed them as I do not watch all the sessions live. Additional or different sets of resource persons may need to be called upon)

Drug war and prevalence:

  • Are there any official marching orders regarding the drug war? What are they?
  • What is the prevalence of drug usage in the country?
  • How many drug users are there?
  • Where does this data come from?
  • How does the prevalence compare with previous years and administrations?
  • How does the prevalence (per capita) compare with other countries, particularly those with similar economic levels?
  • What are the sources of intel that leads to the “drug watchlists”?
  • What are the sources of intel that lead to the president’s “narco-list”?
  • How do our tactics in this drug war compare to those of other countries with similar programs? Which of those countries have been successful?
  • Do we have data on the prevalence of drug usage during the president’s term in Davao? Have the harsh methods proven to be effective?
  • Do we have any updated data since the “drug war” began? Has the drug prevalence gone down?
  • Do we have any quantifiable target for the “drug war”? When do we declare success? Can we receive regular updates?

Drug surrenderees:

  • How many of the drug surrenderees were previously on police watchlists?
  • How many came forward vs rounded up by the police?
  • What are the consequences for not coming forward?
  • How many of the surrenderees surrendered or gave confessions with the benefit of legal counsel? Are they entitled to legal counsel?
  • Have any of the surrenderees later been found to still be involved in drug operations?
  • There are reports of people mistakenly added to these surrenderee lists or forced to come forward, are the police investigating them?

Suspects killed during police operations (“nanlaban”):

  • How many drug-related operations have the police conducted? How does this rate compare with previous years and administrations?
  • How many suspects are killed vs arrested? How does this rate compare with previous years and administrations?
  • How do the above rates compare with other countries, particularly those with similar drug prevalence rates? How does it compare with other countries that have ongoing “drug wars”?
  • How many cases of suspects killed during police operations are under investigation? Who conducts the investigations? Do they have enough resources?
  • What are the rules of engagement during police operations? Are all officers given the proper training re: these rules?
  • Are there any resources or other things that could be provided to the police to help minimize unnecessary loss of life?
  • What is the protocol/procedure when a suspect is killed during a police operation? Is there any automatic investigation or counseling for the officer involved?
  • Is there any autopsy or other forensic analysis done on suspects killed during police operations? Are they checked for powder burns, or for fingerprints on the alleged weapon they used? Ballistics matching on bullets recovered at the scene?
  • Is it possible that some officers are becoming overzealous because of the president’s violent rhetoric? Is it possible that some officers misinterpret the president’s violent rhetoric?
  • Do we have data on the incidence rate of police killings during the president’s term in Davao? How did it compare to other areas?
  • If relatives of those killed suspect foul play, who can they turn to? Most of them will be poor with limited resources, do we need to provide them legal assistance?

Suspects killed while in custody (mainly “nang-agaw ng baril”):

  • How many suspects have been killed while in custody (compared with arrests)? How does this rate compare with previous years and administrations?
  • What is the protocol or procedure for officers handling suspects in custody? Are there any procedures to prevent the suspect being able to grab officers’ weapons? Are all officers given the proper training re: these rules?
  • What is the protocol/procedure when a suspect is killed  in custody? Is there any automatic investigation or counseling for the officer involved?
  • Are the involved officers under any sort of administrative or criminal liability for carelessness in such situations?
  • Do we have data on the incidence rate of suspects killed in custody during the president’s term in Davao? How did it compare to other areas?

Non-suspects killed during any sort of police operations (“collateral damage”):

  • Are there any such incidents?
  • In case there are such incidents, are the involved officers under any sort of administrative or criminal liability? Is there any automatic investigation or counseling for the officers involved?

Vigilante killings (“cardboard killings” and riding-in-tandem killings):

  • How many such incidents have been recorded and are under investigation by the police?
  • What are the statuses of these investigations? What priority is given by to these cases?
  • What is the protocol/procedure when a body is found under such circumstances?
  • Are police able to identify all the victims? Why or why not?
  • Is there any kind of autopsy or forensic analysis done on the victims’ bodies?
  • Many of the victims are alleged to be drug users or pushers, have the bodies been tested to check the truth of this?
  • How many of the victims were on police watchlists?
  • Where are the victims killed? What weapons are used? What materials are used for the cardboard/tape/etc? What model and make of vehicle/motorcycle are often used?
  • Which areas have the highest rate of such incidents? Do they correspond to areas with high drug use? Has there been any initiative to increase police visibility in those areas?
  • Is there any common pattern or modus operandi identified in such killings?
  • Are there any leads? (Understandably, the police may not be able to disclose this, or maybe only in executive session)
  • Do the killings bear any similarity to any previous cases?
  • Is it possible that there are law enforcers involved in these killings?
  • Do we have any intel or watchlists for hitmen the same way we do for drug dealers?
  • Do we have data on the incidence rate of vigilante killings during the president’s term in Davao? How did it compare to other areas? Were the police able to find ways to reduce or solve those killings?

Bonus: Bilibid drug operations (in addition to whatever narrative the DOJ secretary felt like bringing forward):

  • What % of drug volume in the country passes through Bilibid? Where does this data come from? How does it compare to previous years and administrations?
  • How many inmates are involved in illegal activities inside Bilibid?
  • What is the daily routine of the involved inmates?
  • What are the existing legal procedures/protocols for inmates caught in illegal activities inside the Bilibid? Are we allowed to isolate or transfer the problematic inmates?
  • Which/how many Bilibid officers and guards are aware of the illegal activities?
  • How long have these illegal operations been going on? Are they still going on?
  • Where do the inmates get the money to fund these activities or to allegedly give to the former secretary as payoffs?

Final disclaimer: This is simply a thought exercise on my part, as to what guide questions I would start asking if I were in search of the truth. I have no expectations that any of the people in authority would actually follow these lines of questioning. I’m also sure there are many other pertinent questions that I have not considered at this time, but basically my approach would center around: what is the data, where does it come from, how does it compare to other data? And what are the procedures, who is liable for any problems, what is the progress of investigations? These avenues would seem to me (as a layman) to be the most useful in terms of improvements to legislation

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