Press Release
November 6, 2016

Statement of Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on the Killing of Espinosa

The killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. inside his cell is awfully unsettling. That Espinosa was brazenly shot dead behind bars is the height of impunity.

Independent, inter-agency task force

I call on the Duterte government to immediately form an independent inter-agency task force to conduct a swift and thorough investigation of this disturbing incident. The government must get to the bottom of this issue and answer the following questions: Was there foul play behind the mayor's death? Why was a warrant served at 4:00 am to someone who is already behind bars and without proper coordination with jail guards? Why was the hard drive of the jail's CCTV cameras removed? Was there poor jail management?

I believe the majority of the police force is honest and trustworthy. Yet, the PNP, as an institution, cannot possibly earn the public's trust and ease their fears if incidents like this happen in its very backyard. It also cannot realize security sector reforms under such a climate. The Duterte government cannot convince the public that the country is safer now if the police force's image is continuously tarnished by cases of human rights violations and other abuses.

Resume Senate investigation

I also support the call to resume the Senate's investigation on extrajudicial killings triggered by Espinosa's death. At a time when people are searching for answers behind the unresolved cases of EJKs, and when President Duterte himself attested to their existence, the Senate must meet the public's growing expectation for truth and accountability.

Exercise vigilance, don't easily believe the "nanlaban" narrative

Lastly, I urge the public to exercise extreme vigilance in these challenging and uneasy times. The public must not swallow hook, line and sinker the lackadaisical "nanlaban narrative" on all drug-related deaths." More than ever, we must be scrutinizing and critical. The search for truth, justice and accountability demands our devoted watchfulness.

I understand the collective anger against alleged drug lords. Drug lords and their henchmen have made millions by destroying lives and families. They have forced us to live in fear. They have made it so bad; people welcome the very questionable circumstances of their deaths.

And this is where we must draw the line. We must strive to be better than the very monsters we fight. Even in our anger we must strive to be sober and just. This is the only way for us to get to the very core of this dense, treacherous social ill and end it. The day we surrender our democratic values and processes for the allure of violent shortcuts is the time we have completely lost to illegal drug trafficking.

For the sake of our own humanity and dignity, we must guarantee that democracy, due process, and fair treatment through an impartial judicial system are protected. We must not exchange one terror for another. We must ensure that our quest for justice does not lead to more injustices.

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