Escudero hits Aguirre for saying drug suspects are not human

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero on Monday chided Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre for his recent comments on drug suspects not being human.

Aguirre's comments came across as "nonchalant, insensitive, and no basis in so far as what his job should truly be as Justice Secretary, which is to protect the rights of the people," Escudero said in an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source.

"Guilty or not guilty, murderer or drug pusher, all of us have rights under the law, which he should protect also equally, with equal fervor," said Escudero, who plans to file a resolution urging the senate to investigate the claims of an Amnesty International (AI) report.

His remarks followed Aguirre's reaction to a report released last week by AI that claimed the alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines' war on drugs were state-sanctioned. AI also claimed the police were being paid between ₱8,000 to ₱15,000 per killing.

"As justice secretary, due process is very important," he added. "The people who need due process the most are those precisely accused of any crime that they allegedly committed," he added.

Aguirre said that AI and Human Rights Watch accused the government of perpetuating crimes against humanity, but the suspects killed are not human.

"Hindi naman totoo yan. Ganyan din ang Human Rights Watch... Sabi ko yung mga criminals, mga drug lords, drug pushers, they are not the humanity," Aguirre said last week.

Escudero said that Aguirre being "nonchalant" is the "wrong perception or attitude."

"How can you distinguish a drug lord or drug pusher or drug user from an ordinary human being? All of us are human beings," said Escudero.

Related: War vs. Poor: Police paid per drug killing - Amnesty International

Escudero also chided House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who rebuked the same report last week.

"Bakit sila nakikialam? Anong pakialam nila sa atin? We are a sovereign country. They are not the ones suffering because of all these crimes," Alvarez said. "Huwag silang makialam, kasi tayo yung apektado, hindi naman sila. They are far away from us."

Escudero said Alvarez's comments that AI had no right to interfere was an implication that the killings were indeed taking place.

"When he says 'Don't bother us,' and 'You have no right to bother us,' it's as if he admitted already that it is going on," said Escudero.

 

Escudero said that the administration's encouragement and protection of policemen resulted in rampant police abuse.

Escudero also weighed in on the ongoing Senate hearing on corruption in the Bureau of Immigration.

Secretary Aguirre, who also testified in the probe, said that he was offered ₱100 million monthly to be gambling tycoon Jack Lam's protector but maintains his innocence. Lam and his associate, retired police officer Wally Sombero, have yet to participate in the Senate probe.

Escudero noted that there is still no evidence implicating Aguirre, and he will "await and reserve judgment until we hear from Mr. Sombero." The former police official has been summoned to the next senate hearing on Thursday.

Former immigration commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles were reported to have received ₱50 million from gambling tycoon Jack Lam. The payment was supposedly to let him and over 1,300 illegal Chinese workers in an unlicensed gambling operation off the hook.

Escudero also had strong words for Argosino and Robles.

"They're both lying, and everybody knows that they're lying," said Escudero. "They have to be able to say something to their children, wives, friends, relatives."

Related: Argosino breaks down, asks why authorities haven't charged Jack Lam