A TOP official of the Philippine National Police said Monday there are no extrajudicial killings in the Philippines because there is no death penalty, which is a judicial killing.
“There is no death penalty so there is no judicial killing,” said Inspector General Alfegar Triambulo of the PNP Internal Affairs Service [IAS], speaking in Filipino. “If there is no judicial killing, there is no extrajudicial killing.”
The correct term for killings during police operations is “homicides under investigation,” he added.
The IAS, he said, was investigating 2,000 of such cases.
The figure was lower than the 3,800 cases that Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said during an Al Jazeera invstigation were under investigation.
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa supported the police definition of extrajudicial killing under Administrative Order No. 35.
“It’s a killing, but my god, we won’t label it an EJK,” he said in Filipino.
Administrative Order No. 35 defines EJKs as “killings where the victim was a member of, or affiliated with an organization, to include political, environmental, labor, or similar causes; or an advocate of the said cause; or a media practitioner apparently mistaken or identified to be so.”
A human rights watchdog described as “ridiculous” the claim that there are no extrajudicial killings under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Human Rights Watch Geneva director John Fisher also slammed the PNP for subscribing to a “convenient” definition of extrajudicial killings based on an order from the previous administration.
“That’s a ridiculous claim. The number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines is there. It’s a very convenient definition that manages to reduce the number to zero,” said Fisher, who visited the Philippines last week to meet with human rights groups.
Human Rights Watch also reminded the PNP to follow due process, as it doubted the Duterte government’s claim that all 3,800 killed in the campaign against illegal drugs were drug dealers who fired back at the police.
“Firstly, it doesn’t really matter whether somebody is involved with drugs or not. It’s no justification or excuse to murder them. There is due process; that’s part of the international human rights framework. There’s a requirement of arrest warrants, trials, convictions, punishment, according to law,” Fisher said.
“Everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until found guilty and clearly, there is not even a semblance of judicial process taking place here. That’s why they’re called extrajudicial executions—because they happen without judicial process,” Fisher said.
Fisher’s statement came in reaction to the statement of Cayetano, claiming that all the thousands killed in the war on drugs were dealers who fired back at the police.
“They’re claiming that in every single case, which now total in the thousands. That’s simply not a credible response that every single suspect who has been killed and thousands have been killed in ‘self-defense’,” Fisher said.
“As I say, that simply reinforces the need for some kind of international objective assessment, not just relying to the police or government who have obviously every interest in justifying their own action,” Fisher also said.
“I understand that the PNP initially claimed that there was one case of extrajudicial claims in the whole of the Philippines and then revised that down to zero after careful consideration,” he said.
Fisher said the government’s tallies were “absurd.”
“Obviously, the claim is absurd. On the government’s own tallies, I think at the beginning of this year they estimated more than 3,000 people have been killed. Our own numbers suggest that the actual total is higher, but in any event, it’s in the thousands,” Fisher said.
Fisher also said the Duterte administration’s response to the UN Human Rights Council’s recommendations is telling.
“What we saw in the Philippines’ government response to the United Nations is that it can’t be an extrajudicial killing if it’s perpetrated in the name of fighting the campaign against illegal drugs,” Fisher said.
However, he said this is not acceptable by global standards.
“Now that’s simply false as a matter of international law. ‘Extrajudicial’ means it’s happening without a judicial process and clearly these killings are happening without a judicial process,” he said.
Also on Monday, the Justice Department began its preliminary investigation of the criminal complaints filed against two Caloocan policemen and a taxi driver implicated in the killing of former UP student Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, and his 14-year-old companion Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman.
Respondents Police Officers 1 Ricky Arquilita and Jeffrey Perez and taxi driver Tomas Bagcal showed up before the DOJ panel of prosecutors headed by Senior Asst. State Prosecutor Ma. Emilia Victorio and received copies of the complaint for double murder, torture and planting of evidence under the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act filed against them by the parents of Carl and Kulot.
The three respondents were all required to file their counter affidavits in the next hearing set on Oct. 19.
The investigating panel also set the succeeding hearings for Oct. 23 and 26 for filing of reply and rejoinders by the parties, respectively.
During Monday’s hearing, lawyers for the complainants led by Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta also presented a new witness to beef up the charges against the respondents.
Acosta said the new witness identified as Joel Cruz is an employee of the funeral service that picked up Carl’s body from the crime scene.
“His testimony jived with the findings of our forensic team when it comes to the time of death of Carl,” Acosta told reporters after the hearing.
The PAO chief also said they would oppose the bid of Bagcal, who is now under protective custody of the National Bureau of Investigation, to become state witness in the case.
Acosta argued that the taxi driver no longer has credibility after changing his statements several times.
“We’ve heard five versions of the story from him. In his first version, he said the robbers used a handgun and then it later became a knife. He also keeps on changing the actual time of the incident,” the PAOP chief said.
However, Acosta said they could still support Bagcal’s bid to become state witness if he would tell the truth.
“He should just tell the truth… We always side with the truth so if he tells the truth we could even move to make him state witness,” Acosta added.
Perez and Arquilita had claimed that they killed Carl Angelo in a gunfight in the wee hours of Aug. 18 after the teenager allegedly robbed Bagcal.
But the complaint filed against them last Sept. 16 cited testimonies of witnesses–including an eyewitness who saw Carl Angelo’s killing–and forensic evidence to debunk the policemen’s claim.
A forensic exam on Carl Angelo’s cadaver showed that he was already kneeling when he was shot several times in the chest, suggesting an “intentional killing” on the part of the police.
It also suggested that he was tortured before he was killed as his wrists were swollen and bore handcuff marks and his eyes were bruised.
The autopsy on Kulot, on the other hand, showed he suffered about 28 stab wounds and was repeatedly stabbed even when he was already dead.
His body was found last Sept. 5 floating in a creek in Nueva Ecija with his head wrapped in packing tape.
The complaint also cited as basis the testimony of eyewitness identified as alias “Daniel” who pointed to probers the site where Carl Angelo was killed by police in C-3 Road in Caloocan.
In his affidavit, the witness said he saw police drag Carl Angelo out of a police patrol car and ordered him to kneel on a grassy area. Holding up his bound wrists, Carl Angelo pleaded and said he was surrendering–but he was shot dead by the two policemen.
Daniel said he hid behind a lamppost when the police car pulled to a stop near the grassy area. He said there was also a young boy in the car, which was believed to be Kulot.