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De Lima’s whimsical arbitrariness

Ermin Garcia Jr
Why is EJK so serious a charge to senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV but largely ignored by the populace?

Extrajudicial killings (EJKs) suddenly became a phenomenon in the country by itself only because Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV used it liberally in an effort to throw a monkey wrench at President Duterte’s war on drugs. 

The last time we heard a chorus from the two, they insist that some 4,000 drug suspects were killed by the police and the military, on orders of President Duterte. It’s uncontrollable EJK at its worst, they claim, a very serious charge, the kind that easily makes headlines. 

But something’s amiss. There’s no public outcry that normally quickly follows such headlines. No protest rallies. No chants. No red flags on the streets. No burning of effigies. Why mainstream and foreign media failed to note these in their reports escapes me. 

Why is EJK so serious a charge to the two but largely ignored by the populace?

Curiously, not even the daily dose of news from the field about more drug pushers dropping like flies after resisting arrests prompted any group to organize a protest rally. Only the possibility of seeing former dictator Marcos being buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani made some camp out at the Supreme Court grounds with their placards “Marcos is no hero!” 

Worse, when communities used to be alarmed by reports of dead bodies (accompanied by a “Hwag tularan…” message on a cardboard) found dumped in empty lots, many just shrug them off today, pleased with themselves. 

So, what’s happening? Let’s take it from a mother in Dagupan City whose son was a drug user who stole anything of value in their home. 

 “What EJKs are the two (senators) talking about? Tama lang yan! It’s our human rights that the government is protecting!” 

She and a thousand other mothers similarly situated couldn’t care less whatever EJK means. They’d probably be more incensed if they find out that De Lima took EJK out of its original definition and context for her own purposes – merely to harass Mr. Duterte.

Different EJK definition

Many are not aware that the Administrative Order No.35 Series of 2012 she issued as then Department of Justice Secretary, has a completely different view about EJK. 

Here’s the Philippine Daily Inquirer report in November 2102: 

“Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday released to reporters Administrative Order No. 35 creating this body, which she said the President signed on Nov. 22, the eve of the third anniversary of the infamous massacre of 58 people allegedly by members of the Ampatuan clan and their followers in Maguindanao in 2009.

Under the AO, the President created a nine-member “Inter-agency committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons.”

DUTERTE CRITIC. In this file photo, Senator Leila de Lima files a case against the President before the Supreme Court. File photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

Now read the accompanying operational guidelines she signed that pointed out the following:

1. Extra-Legal Killings (ELK) or Extra-Judicial Killings (EJK) – For purposes of operationalization and implementation of A.O. No. 35, the ELK/ElK will refer to killings wherein: 

a. The victim was:

  • a member of, or affiliated with an organization, to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor, or similar causes; or
  • an advocate of above-named causes; or
  • a media practitioner or
  • person(s) apparently mistaken or identified to be so.

b. The victim was targeted and killed because of the actual or perceived membership, advocacy, or profession; 

c. The person/s responsible for the killing is a state agent or non-state agent;

d. The method and circumstances of attack reveal a deliberate intent to kill; For purposes of the focused mandate of AO No . 35, killings related to common criminals and/or the perpetration of their crimes shall be addressed by other appropriate, mechanisms within the justice system.

(Translation: Killings related to illegal drugs involving drug lords, pushers; rape, homicide and murders perpetrated by persons under the influence of drugs, will have to be addressed by the police, not by the committee that looks into EJKs). 

It must be recalled that in 2012, national media was already reporting accounts of  torture and execution of known drug pushers by ‘vigilantes’ in many towns and cities.  But De Lima’s  A.O. chose to view these as mere “killings by common criminals,” not as EJKs. 

She added: “Our main challenge is make sure we have the full support of the PNP, NBI and the National Prosecution Service to see the spirit of A.O. No. 35 through… these institutional mechanisms, the perceived continuing culture of impunity.” Well said. 

So what EJKs in the war on drugs is De Lima talking about? Another case of her whimsical arbitrariness? To cite 4,000 EJKs in four months is 743 more than the 3,257 persons reportedly killed during nine years of martial law. 

Is De Lima saying now that Duerte is worse than Marcos? Tell the mothers that. – Rappler.com

The author is editor-publisher of Sunday Punch in Dagupan City and consultant to Senator Alan Peter Cayetano