World/Philippines: Stop the killings! End impunity! Human rights for all!

Asia Human Rights
November 23, 2016
Reproduced with Permission
Asian Human Rights Commission

There has been an epidemic of summary killings and extrajudicial executions across the Philippines for decades now. From 1998 to December 2015, a total of 1,424 were documented to have been killed by the so-called Davao Death Squad in Davao City. More such killings, often perpetrated by so-called "riding in tandem" killers and death squads, had taken place and continue to take place in other cities such as Tagum, Digos, General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, Cebu and in other cities in the Visayas and Luzon.

In the first five months of the Duterte administration, however, the killings have only gotten worse, with nearly 5,000 people killed in its brutal war on drugs in that short period. More than 2,000 died in police operations while the rest were killed by unidentified assailants, or what the police calls "deaths under investigations" that appear to be death squad killings. A number of children were among those killed.

President Duterte campaigned on a platform of reducing crime and illegal drugs. But instead of fixing the country's long-standing rule-of-law problems, he and his top officials incite and encourage law enforcers to commit even more killings and even more abuses. While some of these killings are being investigated both by the police and the Commission on Human Rights, no one has been charged, signalling what appears to be complete impunity.

The Duterte administration has likewise taken steps to erode human rights and civil liberties. The president's allies have filed bills in Congress to reinstate the death penalty and to lower the age of criminal liability to nine years old. He has floated the idea of suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and imposing martial law. He has likewise approved the burial of the dictator Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani despite opposition from those who suffered under the dictatorship.

President Duterte has been trying to discredit institutions that can check official abuse of power, such as the Philippine Commission on Human Rights and nongovernment groups critical of the killings. He has attacked the United Nations and the Human Rights Council as well as western countries whose representatives have expressed concern about the human rights situation in the Philippines. He also wants the Philippines to get out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after other countries with despotic regimes have done so. Unlike previous administrations that have denied complicity in past extrajudicial killings, the Duterte government encourages these abuses and even promises protection to the perpetrators, taking an already egregious human rights situation to a whole new and more dangerous level. It is time for these killings to stop and for the killers to be brought to justice.

We organized ourselves into the Network Against Killings in the Philippines (NAKPhilippines) because civil society needs to take a firmer, stronger and principled stand against extrajudicial killings and the continued erosion of universal human rights in the Philippines. Like the human rights advocates that have campaigned against death squad killings since 1999, we are outraged by these violations and are committed to do what we can to stop the killings, demand accountability from government, assert human rights for all, and protect human rights defenders.

NAKPhilippines is an independent, non-partisan and broad alliance of various individuals, NGOs and civil society organizations concerned about human rights, civil liberties and rule of law in the Philippines.

Today, on the 7th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre, we hold a National Day of Prayer and Solidarity for Victims of Extrajudicial Killings and Their Families at the Shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help, Redemptorist Church, Baclaran, in Manila. This is our way of acknowledging the pain and anguish of the families of thousands of victims of Duterte's war on drugs and to press for our continuing demand for accountability and justice.