Duterte’s SONA a “day of reckoning” for EJK victims, rights group says

More than a week before Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address, rights group Karapatan called to stop the killings anew in a protest action at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) office in Quezon City, and said that the president’s last SONA is a “day of reckoning” for victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

“Calls for justice for the hundreds and thousands of killings in the course of the government’s sham drug war and counterinsurgency campaigns will be one of our resounding calls when Duterte delivers his last SONA, on his last year in office as president,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“Palabay said that aside from the fact that the bloody drug war has failed in solving the drug problem, “Duterte’s accountability for the killings is very apparent, and he is likewise accountable for worsening the culture of impunity in the country.”

“Duterte is hounded by resounding calls for justice and accountability, that he is afraid and shaking at any investigation here and before international bodies, like responding to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s request for a full investigation in the Philippines. His positioning as candidate for vice president and that of his daughter’s bid for presidency in the 2022 national elections seek to serve his intent to evade accountability,” Palabay said.

Meanwhile, the group said they shall continue to press for justice on killings in the course of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign, which has claimed 409 victims, including victims of at least 25 incidents of massacres, since Duterte came into power.

“The government is so scared of any investigation, its escape plan is for Duterte's ilk to dominate the elections in 2022. Duterte eludes accountability, and those in his camp who have condoned the killings in favor of the president are equally guilty,” Palabay said.

Karapatan, on the other hand, also welcomed the release of the four Tumandok indigenous people who were arrested and detained after the raids and killings in Capiz in December 2020.

Capiz Regional Trial Court Branch 21 Judge Rommel Leonor recently ordered the release of Eleutera Caro, Jucie Caro, Rollen Catamin, Marilou Catamin, and Marivic Aguirre, and also quashed the search warrant issued by a Manila court used in the said raids.

“This serves as indisputable proof of the weaponization of the law against the people and our rights. The masterminds and implementers of these raids, illegal searches, and killings, all operating upon orders of their commander-in-chief, should be made to pay for their crimes,” Palabay said.

Finally, the Karapatan official said a year more is too long, because as long as Duterte stays in power, his policy of “kill-kill-kill” continues.

“Another year of Duterte means another year of bloodshed, impunity and injustice. If we are to push for justice and accountability, the call to put an end to his kind of governance should not only be said and done by 2022. The right time for this is now,” Palabay ended.