Draconian policies, infrastructure of impunity are main factors in commission, investigation of EJKs in PH – Karapatan

The infrastructure of impunity and draconian government policies are the main factors in the non-resolution of cases of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, human rights alliance Karapatan said, as the group commented on the Department of Justice’s statements in relation to the unofficial visit of UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings Dr. Morris Tidball-Binz and two experts.

The UN expert concludes his visit today, after meeting with government officials, non-government organizations and individual Philippine-based experts.

“Karapatan welcomes the recent unofficial visit of Dr. Morris Tidball-Binz and two experts on the Minnesota Protocol regarding trainings on investigations into ‘unlawful deaths.’ However, it isn’t solely the lack of capacity on forensic pathology or knowledge of international human rights norms that are affecting government investigations on cases of extrajudicial killings. It is a systemic problem driven by government policies such as those on the drug war and counterinsurgency programs – policies which have resulted in the mass murder of Filipinos, mostly from poor communities. As long as there is no acknowledgment of these impacts and as long as these policies remain, extrajudicial killings and a host of gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law will continue,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

In addition to these policies, laws and policies such as Executive Order No. 70 creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Anti-Terrorism Act, the arbitrary and erroneous terrorist designation of individual peace consultants, human rights defenders such Dr. Naty Castro and social movements, the policy of judicial harassment and red-tagging serve as prelude to worse violations, marking individuals and groups for persecution and extrajudicial killings.

Karapatan said that these and more have been observed by the former UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Philip Alston, in his 2008 report to the UN Human Rights Council, but most, if not all, of his views and recommendations remain unheeded by the succeeding administrations, especially those of former Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and the current Marcos Jr. government.

All task forces, commissions, or panels created by the government, including the task force on Administrative Order No. 35 and the drug war review panel, have failed to fully and adequately render justice to the victims of EJKs and their families, Karapatan commented.

“From preventing reprisals and harassment of families of victims, to lack of extraordinary due diligence in conducting investigations, contamination of crimes scenes by the very perpetrators of the alleged killings, refusal to furnish families and legal representatives with police and other reports for case build up and even fabrication of information in these reports and documents, and the lack of independent and credible forensic experts, these obstacles, among others seem to point to an intent to enable the perpetrators of EJKs and masterminds to evade accountability,” Palabay said.

For years, the government has been supported by foreign institutions with millions of funds for supposed trainings on human rights, including those for forensic investigations, and yet, aside from the lack of improvement in the human rights situation in the country, there is blatant and brazen disregard for civil liberties and basic rights, Karapatan pointed out.

The group reiterated its call for an independent investigation by the UN Human Rights Council and an official investigation by UN Special Procedures into the reports of extrajudicial killings and other rights violations, considering the International Criminal Court’s resumption of investigations into the killings in the drug war and the results of the High Level Tripartite Mission of the International Labor Organization.

“These international organizations should see through the Marcos Jr. government’s attempts to window-dress the dire human rights situation in the country,” she ended.