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MANILA, Philippines — The House committee on public order and safety will no longer use the term “extrajudicial killings” in its future hearings, investigations, and reports “to put things in proper perspective and correctly define the issue.”
In a statement on Sunday, September 18, the committee said it will now use the term, “death under investigation” of the Philippine National Police (PNP), instead of “extrajudicial killings.”
The House committee chaired by Antipolo City 2nd District Representative Romeo Acop has approved the motion of Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia, who questioned the use of the term.
In her motion, the Cebuano lawmaker noted that there is no “judicial killing” or capital punishment or death penalty in the Philippines.
“I am really curious what the definition of extrajudicial killing is because extrajudicial would mean outside of the parameters of a judicial killing. But do we have such a thing as judicial killing in the Philippines?” Garcia asked.
“Therefore right now, we don’t have the death penalty in the Philippines so how could we have such a thing as a judicial killing?” she added.
Garcia cited the Wikipedia definition of extrajudicial killing as “the killing, mainly politically motivated, of a person by governmental authorities or dominant political groups without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process.”
During a Senate hearing on August 23, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Chito Gascon had said that based on the definition of a United Nations (UN) report, extrajudicial killings refer to any killing sanctioned by the government “as well as others that the government failed to investigate.”
He was referring to the 2008 report of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions in the Philippines.
Why even use the term?
Garcia said despite the fact that there is no death penalty in the country, “extrajudicial killing” is commonly used. She cited the ongoing Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration conducted by the Senate committee on justice and human rights.
“And yet it is now so commonly used, that even in the Senate, there was an investigation conducted by the Committee on Justice as regards extrajudicial killing,” Garcia said.
The issue on the use of “extrajudicial killings” was first raised by Quezon City 2nd District Representative Winston Castelo. He was asking police officers who attended the hearing whether authorities condone extrajudicial killings.
Police Director Lazarus Vargas, PNP Director for Plans, said the PNP does not condone extrajudicial killings, a term, he said, is largedly used by organizations outside the PNP.
“We use the term death under investigation because as you’ve earlier said there is no such thing as extrajudicial killing,” Vargas explained. “We did not define it. It is used by organizations outside the PNP. It did not come from us.”
As of September 15, there are 1,606 number of deaths under investigation. (IN NUMBERS: The Philippines’ ‘war on drugs’)
Meanwhile, 1,140 drug personalities have been killed in legitimate police operations while 2,073 are victims of extrajudicial or vigilante killings. This makes the total number of persons killed under Duterte’s intensified war on drugs at 3,213. – Rappler.com