Metro Manila, Philippines (CNN)Witnesses, shrouded to protect their identity from the police who they say were responsible for the extrajudicial killing of their husbands and sons, took the stand in the Philippines senate today to testify about the bloody legacy of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
The senate joint inquiry, brought by the the committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, will examine testimony from both the families of those killed — many by police — and also from ranking officials.
Duterte has repeatedly said that the killings of drug suspects are lawful if police are acting in self defense.
The woman told the joint inquiry a total of nine policemen arrested her partner and his father, Renato, at the family home, despite the lack of an arrest warrant.
One policeman even took off the underwear of her two-year-old daughter and did an anal search, which traumatized her child, she testified. She later filed a complaint with the Department of Social Welfare over the alleged molestation.
She said the two men were beaten up and brought to the local police station, and later shot and killed at another police anti-drugs facility.
Pasay City chief Police investigator Nolasco Bathan told the inquiry two of the policemen have been charged with murder, only this morning, before the hearing.
A local commission on human rights investigation said they found evidence of torture and “arbitrary deprivation of life.”
The country’s top police officer, Philippines National Police (PNP) chiefRonald Dela Rosa reported in testimony that 712 suspects have been killed in police operations since the war on drugs began, and that internal police investigations in these cases are ongoing.
Dela Rosa was also grilled by Senator Antonio Trillanes about the police department’s response to the 1,067 drug-related killings, many of which have been attributed to vigilantes, which have occurred since the beginning of July.
Dela Rosa said that the “cases are under investigation” and that he is encouraging officers to fast-track them. He insisted that the police were not involved in the deaths.
“We have nothing to do with the vigilante killings”
The nation’s top officer, who was elevated to the role when his longtime friend, confidante and colleague Duterte was elected, testified that his officers had arrested 10,153 drug pushers and users since the war on drugs began at the beginning of June.
He added that more than 600,000 involved in illegal drugs had surrendered voluntarily, many as a result of “knock and plead” operations in local neighborhoods, where police invite suspected users to submit themselves to local authorities for registration.
In 6,000 police operations, 718 people have so far been killed, he said, and as a result of the raids drugs worth $51 million (2.38 billion pesos) have been seized. CNN could not independently verify the figures provided by the government.
The police does not and will not condone vigilante killings, he said asserting that these have been perpetrated by crime syndicates. “The police will ensure enforce the full force of the law against them,” he told the hearing. “I hope this hearing will help bring a resolution to the drug problem.”