Summary killings under Duterte admin ‘unprecedented’ – CHR

Mara Cepeda

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Summary killings under Duterte admin ‘unprecedented’ – CHR

Alecs Ongcal

'As a result, the Commission on Human Rights is unable to respond to every single case. We are at less than 20% now,' investigating 170 cases, says Chairperson Jose Luis Martin Gascon

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said that while extrajudicial killings have been happening in every administration after Martial Law, the scale of summary killings under President Rodrigo Duterte is “unprecedented.”

CHR Chairperson Jose Luis Martin Gascon made the statement during the agency’s budget briefing before the House committee on appropriations on Wednesday, August 24. 

Gascon cited the latest data from the Philippine National Police, which noted that 756 drug personalities had so far been killed in police operations around the country. Another 1,160 deaths outside police operations are under investigation by the police.

“So, together, they’re close to 1,900 in the last 55 days since July 1. So the magnitude or scale is unprecedented in that sense,” Gascon told congressmen when asked what the CHR is doing to respond to the rising number of drug-related deaths.  

He clarified, however, that extrajudicial killings is not unique to the Duterte presidency.

“I do have to stress, your honor, that from the outset of the establishment of the Commission on Human Rights in 1987, since the transition to democracy from authoritarian rule, there have always been cases of extrajudicial killings in every single administration – from Cory Aquino to Fidel Ramos to Erap Estrada, Gloria Arroyo, and Noynoy Aquino. All of these previous administrations, there have been incidences of extrajudicial killings,” said Gascon.

But he said the magnitude of apparent summary killings being reported as Duterte wages a war on crimes and illegal drugs is something the CHR has not experienced since its establishment.

“Perhaps during the Martial Law period, there might have been a significant amount of cases, but this nature or magnitude, none,” said Gascon.  

“So, as a result, we confess that we are, as the Commission on Human Rights, unable to respond to every single case at this time. We are at less than 20% now,” he said, adding that they are currently investigating 170 cases.

The rising number of drug-related killings has prompted the Senate committee on justice and human rights to start a probe. (READ: Dela Rosa to Senate: We are not butchers

During the August 23 hearing, Gascon said Duterte may face charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court should the Philippine government fail to address the issue.  

Proposed CHR budget for 2017

Despite the CHR’s observations on the war on drugs, the Duterte administration increased the agency’s proposed budget for 2017 to P496.136 million from P460.026 million in 2016. 

In his presentation before congressmen, Gascon said the 2017 budget would be used for the following:

  • Improvement of investigation of strategies and approaches to strengthen case buildup that would ensure successful prosecution of human rights violation cases
  • Strengthening of Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders and Witnesses
  • Piloting of the National Preventive Mechanism 
  • Deployment of Quick Reaction Teams across the regions
  • Assistance for human rights violation victims
  • Protection and assistance to women, children, and other vulnerable sectors
  • Projects covering the establishment of state-based non-judicial remedial/grievance mechanism addressing violations of economic, social, and cultural rights
  • Development and roll out of human rights impact assessment tool for business enterprises
  • Enhancement of roles of national government agencies, local government units, and civil society organizations in addressing the human rights of internally displaced persons 

The CHR, set to celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, will also host the 14th Annual Meeting of the South East Asia National Human Rights Institutions Forum in 2017. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.