Secretary of Justice Vitaliano Aguirre II called a meeting of the Inter-Agency Committee on EJKs (Extra-Judicial Killings) last October 25 in the wake of concerns aired by some countries and the United Nations Human Rights Council, (UNHRC) over thousands of killings linked to the ongoing campaign against drugs.
Secretary Aguirre presided over the committee’s meeting last October 25, attended by representatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Presidential Human Rights Commission, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Offices of the Presidential Advisers for the Peace Process and for Political Affairs.
The committee proceeded to review 32 old EJK cases, out of 219 cases brought to its attention since it was formed in 2012, along with 27 cases of forced disappearances , 80 cases of torture, and seven cases of human rights violations.
But the committee would not touch the thousands of cases complained of in connection with the ongoing national campaign against drugs. It insisted that under Administrative Order No. 35 issued by then President Benigno S. Aquino III, the recent drug-related killings are not EJKs. In the Aquino order, EJKs are defined as killings related to “political, environmental, agrarian, labor, or similar causes” and of media men.
The government can stick to this narrow definition of EJKs if it wants to, but these old cases of killings of labor leader, newsmen, and others people pushing for various causes seem to be proceeding as well as can be expected. What the world – and many Filipinos – now want the government to look into are the more recent killings in police operations, such as that of teenager Kian de los Santos in Caloocan City.
If the DOJ insists on sticking to the Aquino administrative order’s narrow definition of EJK, then it can call the new police cases by some other name. President Duterte himself has removed the PNP from the anti-drugs campaign and given the leadership of the drive to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority in the wake of public concern over killings that took place during police operations.
Various PNP officials have given various figures on the killings. Last March , the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management reported 6,011 homicides, of which 1,398 were confirmed to be drug-related and 3,785 still under investigation. Another PNP report said there were 2,600 drug suspects who fought back in police operations.
“Unofficial figures” by some sectors of media are much higher – one claimed as many as 9,000 suspected drug dealers and suspects.
These are the cases the Inter-Agency Committee needs to look into. Leave the 219 cases reported to the old IAC on EJKs. Let them proceed at their old pace. It is the new killings – call them by whatever other name is acceptable – that the DOJ should look into, if it wants to answer the UN Human Rights Commission and the many Filipino survey respondents who dispute the police claim that so many victims in police raids all fought back.