by: PJ Ruben T. Reyes and J. Mariano C. Del Castillo
Sadly, the Philippines in the eyes of the international community has a very poor human rights record due to its alarming incidence of extrajudicial killings and unexplained disappearances/abductions of private individuals without anyone being held accountable. And now, various sectors of the society are prodded to seek for viable solutions to address the poor human rights problems of the country.
We sincerely believe that the root of the problem is not really much on the laws related to curbing and punishing human rights violators. Actually, it has always been the implementation of these laws. As part of the judicial institution whose power is drawn from the pen, we are here to present some issues to be mulled over.
1. There is a need for a clear-cut definition of what ‘extrajudicial killing’ is, for homicide and murder are ‘extrajudicial killings’ too. The name is a misnomer since every killing, outside of the death penalty, is extrajudicial. Shouldn’t the crime be called a ‘political killing’ instead? When will a case fall under ‘extrajudicial killings’ in order that the special court can assume jurisdiction? Thus, the motive must be determined during investigation. This is relevant in the light of the existence of special courts to handle such cases. A categorical definition would pinpoint who are to be held liable and who are the victims.
An international NGO observed that such ‘extrajudicial killings’ in the Philippines show a common pattern:
“Surveillance and threats to the victims presumptively by officers;
Finding their names in an “Order of Battle” by military commanders;
Victim has an affiliation with lawful activist or leftist movements and political parties (including labor, journalism, women, peasants, environmental and other sectors);
Assassination (often in front of the families and friends) by hooded persons often driving motorbikes or unlicensed vehicles;
Witness intimidation and sometimes witness murder.”