Press Release
July 18, 2019

De Lima slams Malacanang's effort to downplay number of EJKs in drug war

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has deplored Malacanang's deliberate effort to downplay the number of killings stemming from the Duterte administration's bloodiest war against illegal drugs.

De Lima said the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) should not treat the deaths as mere numbers, but it must take into account that these victims have families and loved ones who are still suffering from their demise.

"Dapat isipin ng pamahalaan na sa likod ng mga bilang na ito, may mga pamilyang nawalan ng mahal sa buhay, mga magulang na nawalan ng anak at mga anak na naulila," said De Lima, the staunchest critic of the Duterte regime's war on drugs.

De Lima issued the pronouncement after a PCOO official declared that the 20,000 death toll from the government's campaign against illegal drugs is "very much bloated."

According to PCOO Assistant Secretary Ramon Cualoping III, authorities have pegged the number of deaths in the Duterte drug war at around 6,000, with many of them killed during firefights.

Earlier, VERA Files claimed that the government contradicted its sole official source of drug war data dubbed as #RealNumbersPH when PCOO Assistant Secretary Marie Rafael Banaag claimed that there have been only 5,425 deaths under the drug war.

VERA Files stressed that the Supreme Court in 2018 asked the Duterte government to explain the more than 20,000 deaths in its anti-narcotics campaign. These deaths have been categorized under "homicide under investigation".

VERA Files is one of the third-party organizations which were commissioned by Facebook Philippines in its fact-checking program, along with online news Rappler.

De Lima, former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, said the government should put premium in ensuring that these killings are solved, instead of wasting its time in disputing the exact numbers of casualties from Duterte's drug war.

"Numbers are not the real issue. Under a senseless and misdirected 'war on drugs', one death is one too many. One death of an innocent child is totally unacceptable as it is reprehensible," De Lima said.

"Higit pa sa bilang, dapat tutukan ng pamahalaan na maresolba ang mga nasabing pagpatay at matamo ng kanilang mahal sa buhay ang inaasam na hustisya," added De Lima, an advocate of social justice and human rights.

This 18th Congress, the lady Senator from Bicol has refiled a measure, now logged as Senate Bill No. 371, which seeks to hold accountable that those behind the thousands of extrajudicial killings during the Duterte government.

For her vocal opposition to the unabated spate of extrajudicial killings and rampant human rights violations, the Duterte regime has fabricated cases using coerced and perjured witnesses to have De Lima detained.

De Lima, the most prominent political prisoner in the country today, has repeatedly declared her innocence from all these obviously trumped-up charges levelled against her by the Duterte administration.

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