Press Release
June 7, 2022

De Lima calls for comprehensive probe on falsified drug war death certificates

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct a more comprehensive and public accountable investigation into the alleged falsified death certificates of the people killed under Duterte's murderous "War on Drugs."

De Lima, the staunchest critic of Duterte regime's brutal drug war, made the call following the release of a special report by Reuters showing that the official death certificates of at least 15 drug war victims were falsified to show that they died of natural causes.

"In a special report ('A pathologist, a priest and a hunt for justice in PH'), Reuters has documented the humanitarian, compassionate and heroic efforts of Fr. Flavie Villanueva and Dr. Raquel Fortun which led to the discovery of another terrain of manipulation and deceit in the administration of justice for the victims of Duterte's drug war," she said.

"We need a more comprehensive and public accountable investigation from the DOJ, and not the cherry-picking investigation currently being pursued. Otherwise, all these official investigations are not helping the victims and the public at all, but only the image of this outgoing Duterte administration," she added.

In the said special report published last June 2, the news agency followed the efforts of Fortun, a forensic pathologist at the University of the Philippines - Manila, Villanueva and the families of drug war victims as they seek justice.

According to the said report, "the death certificates of drug war victims stated that the deceased had succumbed to natural causes such as pneumonia instead of saying they were shot."

"Reuters found that the official death certificates of at least 15 drug war victims did not reflect the violent manner in which police and family members said they died," the report read.

Fortun and Villanueva have been aiding grieving families of victims by properly and methodically investigating their cause of deaths.

In April, Fortun reportedly said she had examined the remains of 46 people killed in Duterte's drug war and found that the cause of death of some had been falsified and that the anti-narcotics campaign targeted "the poorest of the poor."

De Lima lamented how the families of the victims were forced to accept erroneous death certificates by utter helplessness and veiled threats and intimidation.

"Obviously, 'nanlaban,' 'tanim baril' and 'tanim droga' are not the only modus operandi being employed to avoid prosecution in the cold blood killings. The falsified death certificate is another insidious scheme," said De Lima.

"And I believe that there are more of these system-corrupting schemes clogging the pathways to hold accountable the perpetrators of horrific crimes under Duterte's drug war and ensure justice for thousands of victims," she added.

De Lima said that the light of faith and medical science, as well as courageous reporting, are "penetrating the curtain of lies and propaganda in the murderous drug war" led by Mr. Duterte.

"The justice system has to carry this discovery to avoid a total miscarriage of justice in the drug war killings and other crimes where proper death investigation and certification are crucial. It's time for the legal system to take a more involved and determined institutional action in this direction," she stressed.

It can be recalled that De Lima was the very first to sound the alarm on extrajudicial killings (EJKs) being committed in the guise of Duterte's drug war, via her privilege speeches and Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 9, directing the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights to investigate the rampant summary executions of suspected drug offenders, which she filed last July 2016.

The lady Senator from Bicol also submitted a communication to the Office of the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) last October 2017 to complement the communications submitted by the late Atty. Jude Sabio, and former lawmakers Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes IV and Gary Alejano against Duterte's drug war.

This 18th Congress, De Lima reintroduced a measure, logged as Senate Bill (SB) No. 371, seeking to define and criminalize acts that constitute extrajudicial killings and ensure accountability for said crimes.

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