By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks)
CHICAGO (JGL) -- EFREN C. Morillo, a 29-year-old scavenger at the dumpsite in Payatas, Quezon City in the Philippines, who
survived the extra-judicial killing (EJK) of the government of President Rodrigo Duterte, was not in the Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to listen to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives to discuss the Human Rights Consequences of the War on Drugs in the Philippines Thursday (July 20).
But he became the elephant in the room when Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA), co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, closed his opening remarks during the EJK hearing in the Philippines by saying, "I want to close by noting that today we have received a statement from a survivor of an attempted extrajudicial killing, Efren C. Morillo. Mr. Morillo is the lead petitioner before the Philippine Supreme Court in the first legal challenge to President Duterte’s “War on Drugs.”
“The statement describes Mr. Morillo’s experience – he witnessed the killing of several friends and was wounded himself -- and will be entered into the record in full. This case is a test for the Philippine judicial system, and we will follow its progress with interest.”
Mr. Morillo’s statement was written in Filipino and was translated in English by the Center for International Law (Centerlaw)- Philippines. But his incredible narrative did not show that he did not even finish his first grade because as the eldest among five siblings and with his parents being unemployed, he became the breadwinner of his family.
His statement summed up the futility of President Duterte’s war on drugs that has so far claimed about 7,000 lives that the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was trying to dissect and come up with a solution.
TOM LANTOS PANEL:
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (third from left) (D-CA-14) makes an opening statement during the hearing on the Human Rights Consequences of the War on Drugs in the Philippines before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives co-chaired by Rep. James P. McGovern (extreme left) (D-MA) and Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) at the Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. on Thursday (July 20). (JGL Screengrab by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
Morillo recalled on Aug. 21 last year, he went to the home of his friend, Marcelo “Nonoy” Daa, Jr., a fellow, garbage picker, in Payatas to collect a P1,000 ($20.17) debt at about 1 p.m. and came upon Nonoy with three other friends, Jessie Cule, Rhaffy Gabo and Anthony Comendo, who were also garbage pickers. Nonoy’s live-in partner Maribeth Bartolay, his sister Marla, and his Aunt Ising were also there.
Suddenly, five men and two women in civilian clothes arrived. They did not say who they were. They quickly entered the gate and drew guns. “They pointed their guns at us and shouted, ‘Don’t run.’
“Shocked, we immediately held up our hands. The armed men handcuffed Nonoy and me. They pulled electric wire from the ceiling of the shack, which they used to tie Jessie’s hands. They also took Rhaffy and Anthony from the back of the house and tied their hands with electric wire. Then, they made the five of us sit side by side on a bench in the yard.”
He later learned that the five men were Police Chief Inspector Emil Garcia, Police Officer 3 Allan Formilleza, Police Officer I Melchor Navisaga and Police Officer 1 James Aggarao.
Morillo said, the whole time, the armed men kept accusing them of being involved in illegal drugs. “We piteously protested that we are innocent of any crime or wrongdoing.”
ELLECER CARLOS (extreme left), spokesperson, iDEFEND, The Philippines, responds to a question from the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday (July 20) in Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. during the hearing on the Human Rights Consequences of the War on Drugs in the Philippines. Photo also shows from left Matthew Wells, Senior Crisis Advisor of Amnesty International, who described Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs as “war on the poor” and Phelim Kine, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. (JGL Screengrab by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
Finding only a cigarette lighter in the shape of a gun and some shiny paper and no contraband, the armed men forcibly took the silver necklaces and rings from Maribeth and Nonoy’s collection of metal objects he painstakingly retrieved from trash.
Saying that the cigarette lighter in the shape of a gun and the shine paper were proof that they are involved in “illegal drugs,” the armed men brought Morillo and his four other male companions at the back of the house. They made Anthony, Rhaffy and Jessie kneel on the ground while one of the gunmen he later learned to be Police Officer 3 Allan Formilleza brought Nonoy and himself inside a makeshift room.
“Without warning, Formilleza raised his gun and fired at me.” Morillo said, “I fell to the ground and felt a burning sensation in my chest, but I did not lose consciousness. I saw Formilleza fire two shots at Nonoy, who fell to the ground beside me and started catching his breath. Formilleza fired another shot at Nonoy, shattering his head.
“Filled with terror, I closed my eyes and played dead.
“Outside, I heard many gunshots fired. I heard many voices raised – some angry, some crying pitifully. I heard someone instruct: “Don’t touch that, say they fought back. Leave the evidence.”
PHELIM KINE, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, holds a photo of a little girl who was killed while riding on a motorcycle driven by her father who was in in the “watch list” of the police as a collateral damage in President Duterte’s war on drug. Kine also said when he criticized Mr. Duterte in 2015 for his past extra judicial violence while then Mayor Duterte was being egged on to run for president, he was invited by the mayor to come to Davao thru the media “where I can be publicly executed.” (JGL Screengrab by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
When Morillo sensed that Formilleza had left the room, he broke for his freedom. Morillo learned that he and his friends were victims of “Tokhang,” a police operation seeking out suspected drug pushers and users in communities in order to convince them to surrender to authorities and reform.
Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson, iDEFEND, The Philippines, the only resource person from the Philippines, told Rep. McGovern and co-chair, Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), during the committee hearing that he is recommending the following:
1. Continue calling on President Duterte to stop the killings, stop the incitement to violence, stop dehumanizing drug dependents, stop threatening human rights defenders, and enable the Philippine National Police to return to the rule of law and respect for due process and to undertake affirmative action to resolve the vigilante killings.
2. Pass the Philippine Human Rights Accountability and Counter Narcotics Act (S.1055) introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Ed Markey (D-MA), which withdraws all support to the Philippine National Police for Counter Narcotics and Terrorist operations by way of firearms and funding, provides support to the work of human rights organizations and defenders in the Philippines and assistance in putting forward and eventually institutionalizing a sustainable, viable, effective, compassionate, evidence-based and human rights centered approach to the drug issue anchored on the harm reduction strategy .
FACT-FINDING MISSION IN PH URGED
ECONOMY OF MURDER:
MATTHEW WELLS, Senior Crisis Advisor of Amnesty International, told the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday (July 20) that AI investigation found that, in at least some areas of the Philippines, police officers have received significant under-the-table payments for “encounters” in which alleged drug offenders are killed. A police officer with more than a decade of experience, and who was part of an anti-illegal drug unit they interviewed, confirmed this practice, indicating they were paid on an escalating scale depending on whether the target was a “user” or “pusher” of drugs. He said payments were known and approved by higher-level police officials and ranged from 8,000 Philippine pesos (US $160) for killing a person who uses drugs to 15,000 pesos (US $300) for killing a small-scale “pusher.” (JGL Screengrab by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
3. Conduct a fact-finding mission in the Philippines to evaluate the human rights crisis.
4. Recommend the cancellation of President Duterte’s state visit to the US in October, thereby sending a clear message that the mass killings and systematic violations of human rights in the Philippines are unacceptable and that this is a collective concern of the global community.
5. Help the Philippines strengthen the investigative and forensic capacities of its law enforcement agencies by taking into consideration and incorporating relevant provisions in the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Deaths (2016) – The 6 Revised United Nations Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions;
6. Help ongoing efforts in the Philippines to put in place an evidence based, human rights centered, sustainable and viable, compassionate public health approach to responsibly respond to the drug issue. These efforts also aim to ensure that provisions of law and directives of law enforcement agencies on drug concerns that will be congruent to the provisions of the International Drug Control Conventions. And
7. Provide assistance to human rights groups involved in helping families of victims by way of psychosocial and legal support as well as protection.
LESS IS MORE:
HUMAN RIGHTS advocates in Chicago, Illinois took time out to watch in real time the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday (July 20) at the Hana Center at 4300 N. California Avenue thru their mini-computer. Photo shows from left Deyi Fidel of Balitaang Pilipinas and Juanita Burris of Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines. Not in photo are Pastor Bert Villaluz of Bride of Christ Church and Jerry B. Clarito of the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance. (JGL Photo used with permission)
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA-14), also a member of the Commission, joined the call of Rep. McGovern for President Trump to disinvite President Duterte to the White House, saying, Duterte’s “murderous, extra-judicial campaign has drawn condemnation from around the world – except President Trump, who had a “very friendly” conversation with the man, who once said, “I don’t care about human rights” and who called President Obama a “son of a whore” for speaking out against atrocities Duterte has committed against his own people.”
Mr. McGovern said, “And I certainly believe very strongly that a man with the human rights record of Mr. Duterte should not be invited to the White House. If he comes, I will lead the protest. We ought to be on the side of advocating for human rights, not explaining them away.”
Another resource speaker, Matthew Wells, Senior Crisis Advisor of Amnesty International, described Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs as unlawful killings, mostly of poor and marginalized people, that implicate the Philippine National Police; the complete lack of accountability for police officers involved in extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations; and the wider impact on the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health for people who use drugs, as they are terrified to access services lest they be targeted.
STOLE VIRGIN MARY STATUTE
Mr. Wells said, “In the poorest of households, where there is often little of material value, police steal items of sentimental value. In a floating slum in Cebu Province, police broke down the door to a house and killed the 29-year-old son of a woman who, according to a family member, sold drugs to put food on the table. A witness recalled to us how the police stole a Virgin Mary statue from their home altar. “
He urged Congress to pass S.1055 again includes important provisions that Amnesty International supports, specifically in authorizing assistance to victims, to support local civil society, and to promote a public health approach.
Phelim Kine, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, another resource speaker said the U.S. should continue to defer decision on new funding for the Millennium Challenge Corporation for the Philippines not only for “significant concerns around rule of law and civil liberties” but providing a criteria that “MCC aid recipient” must demonstrate commitment to the rule of law, due process and respect for human rights.”
He said Congress could also engage more directly to stop the bloodshed in the Philippines. First, it should further restrict assistance to the Philippine security forces by imposing specific human rights benchmarks, including requiring Duterte to end the “drug war” killings and allow a United Nations-led investigation into the deaths. And Congress can direct the Secretary of State to work with other foreign governments to impose similar restrictions.
Mr. Kine noted on May 4, 2017 Senators Cardin (D-MD), Rubio (R-FL), Schatz (D-HI), and Markey (D-MA) introduced the “Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017,” a bill that places restrictions on defense aid to the country, provides additional funding for the Philippine human rights community, and supports a public health approach to drug use.