Bato’s Indonesian award ‘dishonors rule of law, gross insult to drug war victims’ – HRW

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PNP chief Ronald 'Bato' dela Rosa in a pensive pose. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — A human rights watchdog blasted the award given by Indonesia to Philippine National Police Director-General Ronald dela Rosa, saying it “debased the rule of law” and was a “gross insult” to the victims of the government’s war on drugs.

Dela Rosa was conferred Wednesday the Medal of Honor, the highest award given by Indonesia to a police officer, and was hailed by Indonesian police chief Tito Karnavian for his “rock star-like inspiration to the Indonesian national police and the Indonesian people on how to fight the war on drugs.”

But Kelim Phine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, called the praise for Dela Rosa “a perverse assessment of a Philippine government official implicated in possible crimes against humanity for inciting and instigating killings linked to the government’s ‘war on drugs’.”

The aggressive anti-narcotics campaign waged by President Rodrigo Duterte since he assumed office in mid-2016 is estimated to have claimed more than 12,000 lives, mostly of the poor, as well as a number of children, many of the deaths believed to be extrajudicial killings by police personnel.

Recently, the International Criminal Court announced it was opening a preliminary examination into the possible liability of Duterte and other government officials for what accusers call a crime against humanity.

HRW has long been critical of Duterte and has been calling on the United Nations to lead an independent investigation into the drug war killings.

It said Dela Rosa may also be culpable for the bloodshed, accusing him of having “obstructed calls for accountability for those deaths by dismissing requests for independent investigations as ‘legal harassment’ and declaring that such demands ‘dampens the morale’ of police officers.”

It also said he had “reinforced the anti-drug campaign’s culture of impunity by reinstating 18 police officers facing homicide charges in the 2016 killing of Rolando Espinosa Sr., mayor of Albuera,” Leyte who was shot dead inside his jail cell. The officers involved claimed the jailed mayor was armed and tried to shoot it out with them.

Instead of rewarding Dela Rosa, “Indonesian President Joko Widodo should join calls for a United Nations-led international investigation” of the war on drugs, Kine said.

He also worried of the Indonesian award on that country’s approach to the drug problem, noting that “Karnavian has expressed fondness for violent extrajudicial approaches to illegal drug use previously.”

“In July he publicly touted the shooting of drug dealers as the ideal approach,” Kine said.

“That’s possible instigation of deadly violence given that a University of Melbourne analysis indicates that Indonesian police killed an estimated 49 suspected drug dealers in the first six months of 2017,” he noted. “That is a sharp rise from 14 such killings in all of 2016 and 10 in 2015.”

“Ominously, more than one third of the total police killings in Indonesia from January to June 2017 occurred after the suspects had surrendered to police,” he added.