Common ground on EJKs?
That remains difficult to find, as the angry government response to Amnesty International (AI) criticism demonstrated. But the blowback from the murder of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in Camp Crame by Anti-Illegal Drugs Group police has opened space for constructive dialogue. Still, logic, language and policy issues abound.
Assistant Interior Secretary Epimaco Densing III argued that, without a death penalty, there is no judicial killing: “If a country has no judicial killing, there’s no extrajudicial killing.” Should we not instead conclude that if there is no judicial killing, then all killings by state authorities are extrajudicial?
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez believes EJKs will decline with the death penalty. Will it rather not rationalize EJKs? Why postpone execution through an expensive, time-consuming court process, when the expected verdict is death? Anyway, the Department of Justice’s mandate, Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II apparently believes, extends to determining who is fully human and deserves human rights. Seriously?
Reviewing 51 drug-related incidents between June and December in 2016, Reuters reported the police kill ratio at 97 percent. The figure between 2013 and 2015 for Rio de Janeiro police, also accused of EJKs, was 80 percent. National Capital Region Police Office chief Oscar Albayalde disputed Reuters’ figure as “probably not true,” and quoted a 5-6 percent kill ratio.
Albayalde was calculating the number of suspects killed against the total number of suspects targeted in NCR police operations. Reuters was looking at 51 incidents when police fired their weapons, killing 100 out of 103 targets. For Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority spokesman Derrick Carreon, this showed that police were “good at shooting.”
Alternatively, the kill ratio suggested that police were good at shooting unarmed suspects, like the three survivors in the 51 incidents. This would also explain the Philippine National Police’s low casualty rate in the war on drugs. In Rio, one policeman died for every 25 suspects, against 118 suspects for every slain PNP officer. Investigative reports say guns found near suspects in distinct cases carried the same registration number, suggesting the planting of evidence.
On the Jee abduction, Malacañang spokesman Ernesto Abella said: “It’s a matter of concern, but it’s not alarming because police scalawags are already existing.” Isn’t the reverse more accurate? Any human institution will have its share of scalawags, always a matter of concern. That the scalawags are committing heinous crimes is alarming.
The Jee murder confirmed conclusions even the PNP admitted.“Tokhang” has become a tool for extortion. More cases following the Jee murder playbook have surfaced. Sen. Panfilo Lacson has shown dismaying video evidence of plainclothes cops planting evidence for uniformed colleagues to discover.
But has President Duterte’s blanket assurance of pardon for police who kill in the line of duty perhaps encouraged the expansion of extortion activities? Might police have committed EJKs? The administration has not conceded either point. It will not count the Jee murder as an EJK, because the police were committing a crime, not performing official duties. Nevertheless, it makes AI’s report of “unlawful and deliberate killings carried out by government order or with its complicity or acquiescence” more believable.
Mr. Duterte has repeatedly ridiculed the notion that bodies wrapped in masking tape could be the work of state authorities—because “government is not in the mummifying business.” This argument now cannot stick, with the tape police used in the Jee murder. Cops murdering for profit would not shirk from EJKs to gain points and, if AI is correct, bonuses from superiors. The danger is that those accustomed to EJKs will escalate to murdering for profit.
Suspending “Tokhang” to probe rogue police is a necessary step. Completing the investigation of killings done by cops in the line of duty advances this process. So would addressing the cases of over 4,000 “vigilante killings.” Even if police were not involved, these are crimes that the government is responsible for solving and stopping. Bringing their perpetrators to justice would clear the PNP’s reputation and help in purging its ranks of rogues.
Edilberto C. de Jesus ([email protected]) is professor emeritus at the Asian Institute of Management. Prof. Rofel Brion’s Tagalog translation of this column and others earlier published, together with other commentaries, are in http://secondthoughts.ph.
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