The death of a crusader
On Oct. 6, the spokesperson of the Philippine National Police responded to the Social Weather Stations finding that three-fourths of voting-age Filipinos fear they or someone they know will fall victim to extrajudicial killings by declaring that, out of over 15,000 homicides recorded between July 1, 2016 and Sept. 15, 2017, only one was possibly an EJK.
Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos then corrected himself and said that even that one case — the murder of Catanduanes News Now publisher Larry Que — could not be confirmed as EJK. In other words, the PNP officially asserts that there have been no EJKs recorded since President Duterte took office.
Carlos was not aware that the same weekend he made that assertion, the citizens of Oriental Mindoro were preparing to mark the first death anniversary of anti-crime crusader Zenaida Luz.
On Oct. 9, 2016, Luz was killed in front of her home in Gloria town by two pairs of masked men on motorcycles; because the local police were responding to a road accident nearby, they were able to give chase and caught up with one of the pairs.
The two suspects shot it out with the local police and were wounded; when they were arrested, the local police discovered that the suspects were police officers themselves.
One was Senior Inspector Magdaleno Pimentel Jr., with the Provincial Public Safety Company; the other was Inspector Markson Almeranez, police chief (no less) of Socorro town. Pimentel was wearing a ski mask, Almeranez a woman’s wig.
How could Carlos have missed this particular case? Court hearings are ongoing; Pimentel and Almeranez were allowed to post bail last August (apparently, for the judge, the fact that the two men were wounded in a shootout with responding policemen was not strong enough evidence to deny them the privilege of bail); and it was only on Oct. 17 (more than 10 days after Carlos made his announcement) that they received their personal copy of the order dismissing them from the service.
However one chooses to define extrajudicial killings, Luz’s murder qualifies.
“Isn’t it [an extrajudicial killing] when a state agent, someone in authority, unjustly kills a helpless civilian?,” Luz’s sister Perlita Alvarez asks. It is a sensible question, raised not out of anger but calm reason.
Simply put, an EJK is an unlawful killing done by state agents or sanctioned by them. It is not accurate to say, as former president Benigno Aquino III has himself said, that because the government does not conduct judicial killings (because the death penalty has been repealed), then there are no extrajudicial killings. This is the same line of faulty argument Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar has used.
In reality, however, the agents the Republic entrusts with the power to kill exercise this power all the time, but lawfully. For instance, the conflict in Marawi City has finally come to an end; every single one of the soldiers and policemen who fought in that five-month conflict had the legal authority to kill Islamic State or Daesh-affiliated terrorists. They were agents of the state; they were equipped with weapons procured by the state; they engaged in battle to defend the state.
Pimentel and Almeranez were agents of the state, too; it remains to be proven whether the weapons they used to kill Luz were official-issue; but they took part in the murder of a known crusader who was actually the state’s partner in combatting crime. Luz’s murder is an open-and-shut example of an EJK.
Even by the restricted definition of Aquino’s Administrative Order 35, the murder would qualify as an EJK.
As a chapter head of Citizens Crime Watch, Luz was “a member of, or affiliated with an organization, to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor or similar causes.”
The circumstances of her death also meet the AO’s definition: “The victim was targeted and killed because of the actual or perceived membership, advocacy, or profession; or the person/s responsible for the killing is a state agent or nonstate agent; and the method and circumstances of attack reveal a deliberate intent to kill.”
Open and shut. And yet the PNP either chose to ignore this particular case, or (worse) forgot about it.
This is the reason why a majority of Filipinos think EJKs do happen, and only a small percentage believe the police when they say they killed a suspect because he was resisting arrest.
It is also the reason why crusaders like Zenaida Luz were needed then, and are needed now.
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