Gov't: Don't fear, no extrajudicial killing under Duterte admin

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 6) — In a bid to allay public fears of falling victim to extrajudicial killings (EJKs), Malacañang and the Philippine National Police (PNP) said there has been no such incidents under the Duterte administration.

"The possibility of them becoming victims of EJK is very remote, if we based it on facts and not on impression/perception," PNP spokesperson Dionardo Carlos said in a statement.

"To allay/remove their fear of becoming victims of EJK, let it be known that under the present administration, there is only one (1) case of extrajudicial killing for the period 01 July '16 to 30 Sept. '17," Carlos added.

Carlos, however, later corrected himself, and said: "There is no confirmed EJK case yet. I stand corrected."

Malacañang on Saturday supported the PNP's statement, saying extrajudicial killings or not, "these deaths are being addressed to ensure the accountability of perpetrators."

It also "calls upon witnesses and individuals who can provide valuable evidence that will lead to speedy resolution of cases," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

The PNP and Malacañang were reacting to a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey where seven in 10 or 73 percent of respondents said they are worried they or someone they know may be a victim of extrajudicial killings.

The non-commissioned poll was conducted from June 23 to 26, with 1,200 respondents and a margin of error of ±3 percent. The results were released Thursday.

Meanwhile, 63 percent of the respondents said the government is serious in addressing extrajudicial killings.

What is an EJK?

Malacañang said there is no extrajudicial killing based on its definition in the operational guidelines of Administrative Order No. 35, which created an inter-agency committee on extralegal killings in 2012.

Under this order, a killing is considered extrajudicial when "the victim was targeted and killed because of the actual or perceived membership, advocacy, or profession."

The victim has to be a member of, or affiliated with a cause-oriented organization, a media practitioner, or mistakenly identified as any of the two.

The order also states the perpetrator does not have to be a state agent but the method and circumstances of the attack must reveal a deliberate intent to kill.

"AO 35 has not been repealed or revoked; thus, the definition of EJK remains the same," Abella said.

Then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima issued these guidelines in April 2013.

De Lima, now a senator fighting the Duterte administration and detained over drug charges, has filed a bill seeking to define and end extrajudicial killings. 

Senate Bill 1197 defines extrajudicial killing as "the unlawful, and deliberate killing of targeted individuals or groups thereof, carried out by agents of the State and under its order or acquiescence in lieu of arrest, investigation and prosecution."

"Extrajudicial killing includes summary killings perpetrated by private individuals for purposes of carrying out on their own or in the context of vigilantism, a campaign or policy of the State," it further states.

EJKs in the drug war?

Local and international human rights groups claim thousands have died as a result of the drug war's alleged extrajudicial killings. The government has repeatedly denied this.

Related: Cayetano: PH open to independent drug war probe

Critics have said Duterte, in strongly worded public pronouncements, ordered or encouraged policemen to kill drug users. Duterte even offered cops promotions or pardon in case they are convicted in the performance of their duties.

Malacañang has always said there are no state-sponsored killings and that it will investigate authorities who violate and abuse their power.

The PNP said over 3,800 suspects have been killed in police operations since July 2016, while over 109,000 suspects were arrested alive, now facing drug charges in courts.

The government, however, recently rejected 154 of 257 recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) aimed at improving the country's human rights situation. Some of these recommendations pertain to investigating alleged extrajudicial killings.

Read more: PH rejects over half of human rights recommendations of UN