De Lima asks Aguirre: Where are your drug war EJK cases?

Lian Buan

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De Lima asks Aguirre: Where are your drug war EJK cases?
The DOJ's latest data of extrajudicial killing cases refer only to victims from cause-oriented groups

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Monday, July 24 asked Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to present figures of extrajudicial killing (EJK) cases related to the government’s war on drugs being handled by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“The data of 219 EJKs apparently refers to those cases covered by the mandate of the AO35 Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons,” De Lima said on Monday.

I was obviously referring to the present-day EJKs i.e., the summary execution of suspected drug offenders. Ilan ba diyan ‘yung mga EJKs ng mga (How many of them are EJKs of) small-time/poor drug pushers and users?” the senator added. 

De Lima accused Aguirre of instructing his prosecutors not to file drug war-related EJK cases against any law enforcement officer. It is included in the Senator’s complaint filed against Aguirre before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Aguirre had denied issuing such a directive, and even called De Lima’s statements libelous. (READ: Aguirre hits De Lima for filing complaint against him)

EJK cases under AO 35

DRUG WAR EJKS. DOJ's Department Order No. 120 tasks the NBI to investigate alleged extrajudicial killings related to the government's war on drugs.

The question is, is the DOJ handling any drug war-related EJK case?

The 219 cases De Lima was referring to were based on data from the DOJ. The data show that as of March 2017, there were 3 cases under preliminary investigation of the National Prosecution Service (NPS) which is under Aguirre, one case under the Office of the Ombudsman, 6 under police investigation, 21 on trial, 48 unsolved, 64 archived, and 76 terminated. 

Those cases are handled by the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons.

It falls under Administrative Order (AO) 35 which seeks to resolve cases of enforced disappearances, torture, and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty, and security of persons.

As De Lima pointed out, it doesn’t include cases related to the Duterte government’s war on drugs.

Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said that there are still no updates to the March 2017 data.

The DOJ used the data during its presentation in Geneva, Switzerland, for the periodic review of the UN Human Rights Council in May.

The Philippine delegation – led by then senator now Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra – was tasked to defend before the UN the government’s war on drugs and the country’s human rights record.

In his presentation, Undersecretary Renante Orceo said the EJK cases handled by the inter-agency committee refers only “to victims belonging to any cause oriented groups or to those individual that advocate for similar cause.”

“Hence, any crimes committed outside of these definitions are not included, and therefore, treated as regular crimes and prosecuted accordingly,” Orceo told the UN council in May.

Drug war-related EJK cases

De Lima said Aguirre should release clearer figures whether the DOJ is handling EJK cases specific to those “targeting suspected drug offenders who are killed during police operations and by unknown vigilante killers, all in the name of the Duterte regime’s War on Drugs.”

The DOJ has not responded  to Rappler’s request for comment to De Lima’s statement as of posting. 

The DOJ also points to Department Order 120 signed on February 20 authorizing the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe “reported killings allegedly related to the campaign against illegal drugs.”

The NBI investigation will focus on the drug war-related EJKs and will exclude those already falling under AO 35. The DOJ order also directs the NBI to “submit a periodic inventory with status report of all cases related to the foregoing.”

Aguirre and Balmes said they will prepare updates on the data, but these were not yet available as of Monday. – 

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.