De Lima seeks probe into ‘Bangkay sa Bangka’ modus

True to her word, Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged her colleagues in the Senate to investigate the alleged sinister practice of some police officers who brazenly and callously dumped bodies of suspected drug offenders into the waters of Manila Bay.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 451 urging the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs to investigate Al Jazeera's reports that bodies of victims slain in the government's all-out war on drugs were being dumped in Manila Bay.

"These reports point to an alarming and reprehensible defect in our criminal justice system where an apparent cycle of impunity is embedded and reinforced," she said, referring to Al Jazeera's exclusive news report aired last July 28.

"Unscrupulous law enforcement agents, who are emboldened into summarily executing drug suspects rather than arresting and prosecuting them, are themselves the investigators of the crimes they have committed and are, thus in a unique position to hide their crimes by resorting to various methods of disposing of evidence," she added.

In a special report on July 28, Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based media network, claims that some local fishermen were being paid by the police to throw bodies of drug suspects into the Manila Bay. The Senator earlier dubbed this modus as "Bangkay sa Bangka".

The former justice secretary noted that these claims are very similar to what self-confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) member Edgar Matobato testified in the Senate probing the unabated spate of extrajudicial and summary killings in the war on drugs.

"The manner in which these bodies were disposed of is starkly similar to the way that the members of the DDS allegedly disposed of the remains of some of their victims," she pointed out.

In 15 September 2016, Matobato testified that: "[d]ami na kaya minsan iyong bangka namin, kumakarga iyan ng 50 katao. Pero minsan ang nakakarga namin may pito, may walo, may lima. Binibiyak muna ang katawan pagkatapos tinatapon sa dagat at saka nilalagyan minsan iyong buhangin, minsan iyong hollow block".

De Lima said the experiences recounted by the fishermen is a fulfilment of President Duterte's electoral campaign promise when he said he will fatten the fish in Manila Bay by dumping 100,000 bodies of drug users and pushers.

"The gory and merciless practice recounted by fishermen in the Al Jazeera article is reminiscent of the modus operandi employed by the DDS, and the apparent fulfillment of the threat made by then Davao City Mayor Duterte," she said.

The Senator from Bicol also noted that this is "not the first time that authorities have allegedly tried to impede or prohibit the detection, investigation or prosecution of a crime".

On June 29, also through a special report, claimed that certain Manila police officers uses local hospitals to also hide their EJK victims. At that time, Sen. Panfilo Lacson expressed his willingness to investigate the matter.

De Lima also proposed that the Senate review and amend existing laws including, Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1829 (Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders) and certain Philippine National Police (PNP) policies.

"The Senate should also review existing legislations to ensure that the rights of suspects or persons subject of law enforcement operations have been observed, and that the commission of abuses and outright crimes during and after police operations are addressed and prevented from being committed with impunity," she said.

De Lima also urged her Senate colleagues to review and act on her authored Senate Bill, SBN 1479, also known as the Cadaver Handling Act of 2017, which proposes to prevent authorities resorting to committing abuses and such crimes in the future.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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