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PHILIPPINES: Extrajudicial killings and attacks against

human rights defenders surge under Duterte

Press release
Human Rights Defenders

Paris-Geneva, September 8, 2017 - Authorities in the Philippines must ensure greater protection
of human rights defenders amid a recent surge of killings and attacks against them, the
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) said today.

In recent days, at least four representatives from different communities, - peasant and small-scale
miner groups - have been shot dead. More than 50 human rights defenders - mostly peasants or
indigenous persons - have been killed since President Duterte assumed office in June 2016,
according to human rights NGO Karapatan (a member of OMCTs SOS-Torture Network).
Karapatan has documented the killing of more than 660 human rights defenders in the last 16
years in the Philippines.

While human rights defenders in the Philippines have been traditionally vulnerable to
killings, threats, and attacks [1], President Dutertes anti-human rights rhetoric and blatant
disregard for human life have created a more hostile environment for defenders, said FIDH
President Dimitris Christopoulos.

President Duterte has repeatedly threatened to kill human rights defenders. The latest such
instance was on August 16, when he suggested that human rights activists were obstructing
justice and urged police to shoot them.

President Dutertes Government, like any other Philippine Government, has a legal
obligation to protect human rights and human rights defenders. His discourse that literally
encourages violence against defenders - the very people who stand up for human rights, social
justice, and an inclusive society - must stop, said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

On August 23, 2017, Mr. Roger Timboco, a member of the peasant group KAMMAO
(Kahugpungan sa mga Maguuma sa Maco ComVal), was shot dead in Mawab, Compostela
Valley. Four days later, a member of Abante, a local organisation of small-scale miners,
Mr. Lomer Gerodias, was shot dead in Maragusan, also in Compostela Valley. Both killings were
believed to have been carried out by Philippine soldiers. Two others, Mr. Jezreel Arrabis and his
wife Ms. Dalia Arrabis, both members of the Farmers Association in Davao City (FADC), were
gunned down in Davao City on September 2, 2017.

In addition to extrajudicial killings, human rights defenders operating in the Philippines continue
to be the target of harassment, death threats, and verbal abuse. On August 22, police raided the
houses of peasant activists Mr. Rolando Gumban, his son Jeremy Gumban, and son-in-law Jun
Roy Diane - all members of farmers group Pamanggas-KMP, which works to promote land rights
in Sitio Lubigan, Barangay Pananawan, Masbate Province. Police arrested the three and detained
them at Sara police station, Iloilo Province. The charges against them are still unknown. In July
and August, several members of Karapatan, including Secretary Generals Ms. Cristina Palabay
and Mr. Reylan Vergara, received death threats. On August 20, 2017, Dr. Darby Santiago,
Chairperson of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) - a member organisation of
Karapatan, also received death threats.

A fact-finding mission to the Philippines, carried out by the Observatory from August 7 to 16,
2017, observed an increasingly hostile environment for human rights defenders in the country.
Interlocutors reported having experienced increased difficulties in carrying out their human
rights activities under President Duterte, particularly in relation to investigations surrounding
extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by police and vigilantes as part of Dutertes war on

House Bill 1617, which is currently under consideration before the House of Representatives and
aims at strengthening the protection of human rights defenders, could help improve the situation
for defenders. The draft legislation reaffirms the rights of human rights defenders when carrying
out their peaceful and legitimate activities. It also imposes an obligation on the Government to
take all precautionary measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders against any
violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other
arbitrary action as a consequence of their legitimate activities.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in
1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this
programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders.
FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights
Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

For more information, please contact:

FIDH: Samuel Hanryon: +33 6 72 28 42 94 / Audrey Couprie: +33 6 48 05 91 57
OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39

[1] For more background information, see in particular Observatory Mission Report, The
Philippines: Human rights defenders at the forefront despite an ongoing culture of violence and
impunity, February 2015.

A TOTAL of 3,257 extrajudicial killings (EJKs) were committed during the Marcos dictatorship.
In contrast, there were 805 drug-related fatalities from May 10 (when Rodrigo Duterte emerged
winner of the presidential election) to Aug. 12, per the Inquirer count.

If the current rate continues, the total number of EJKs for the six years of the Duterte
administration will end up about 700 percent more than the killings committed during the 14
years of the Marcos dictatorship.

President Duterte is either ill-advised or terribly underestimating the risk that he can be held
liable at the International Criminal Court, given the circumstances of the killings.


In 2011, the Philippines ratified the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal
Court. Under this treaty, every Filipino, including the President, can be tried by this Court which
has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity. The treaty provides that when murder is
committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population,
with knowledge of the attack, it becomes a crime against humanity.

The possibility that the current EJKs will be considered by the International Criminal Court as
amounting to a crime against humanity is a liability risk that our President is miscalculating.

Ruben Carranza, director of the New-York-based International Center for Transitional Justice,
points out that [w]hen over 500 civilians have been killed by both police and vigilantes with the
clear goal of targeting them in a war against drugs, with their impunity explicitly guaranteed by
the president, then the elements of EJKs as a crime against humanity of murder are already
there(a) widespread or systematic killings, (b) civilians are targeted, and (c) the perpetrators
know or intended their conduct to be part of a widespread or systematic attack.

On Aug. 11, Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque delivered a privilege speech in which he said:
It is clear that the civilian population is being attackednews reports all around us
overwhelmingly establish that hundreds of Filipinos have been killed either directly by
governmental forces or with their support or tolerance.

Roque likewise said: It is also clear that the President is aware that these acts are ongoing. Even
without proof of a directive on his part, he has, in many instances, spoken about the use of
violence against drug syndicates.

Roque cited the decisions of international criminal tribunals which prosecuted political and
military officials for crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
These tribunals declared that it is not necessary to show that [the crimes committed] were the
result of the existence of a policy or plan and that the plan need not be declared expressly or
even stated clearly and precisely. It may be surmised from the occurrence of a series of events.
The party-list representative cautioned the President to be careful: While it would be imprudent
for me to say with certainty that President Duterte has already committed a crime against
humanity, it would be a disservice to this entire nation if I did not warn him to be careful. Neither
the Rome Statute nor general international law prescribes a minimum number of victims for an
indictment. So long as the [International Criminal Court] believes that the war on drugs is
widespread and systematic, [it is] likely to investigate.

The President enjoys immunity under Philippine law, but he has no similar immunity for crimes
under the International Criminal Courts jurisdiction. Carranza says the presidents of Sudan and
Kenya were charged in the court even during their incumbency. And there is no expiration of
liability for ICC crimes, so he can be charged even long after he leaves Malacaang.


The determination of Mr. Duterte to cleanse the country of the drug menace and his willingness
to risk his life, honor, and the presidency to achieve this goal are praiseworthy.

However, we are at that stage of our civilization where we have long abandoned the ancient
practice of relying on operatives to dispense justice through the smoking barrel of their guns. We
have advanced our civilization by relying on gun-wielding men to apprehend criminals, but have
separately assigned the task of listening to accusations of guilt and protestations of innocence to
men and women who mete out penalties.

It is true that our current justice system is notoriously imperfect and graft-prone. But we do not
improve our way of life by marching back to the Dark Ages where justice is made synonymous
with violence. We improve our defective justice system by fixing it, not by abandoning it.

It is true that the proliferation of drugs is partly due to corrupt judges. But it is also true that
illegal drugs proliferate because of a corrupt police force and a corrupt prosecution service, both
of which are executive agencies within the Presidents control to reform.

It is also true that before our children become drug dependents who clog police and court
dockets, there are the education, health, and social welfare departments which are executive
agencies within the Presidents control to tap for instructive, reformative, and curative solutions
to the drug menace.

We want our President to succeed in his fight against illegal drugs. But in his haste and zeal, he
may end up accused of a crime more serious than the ones perpetrated by his archenemies. The
last thing our country needs is a President facing trial at the International Criminal Court.


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18 September 2017



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Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings and

Enforced Disappearance Meet to Adopt Guidelines for
Investigation and Prosecution

Posted: 19 April 2013

On April 18, 2013, Thursday, the Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) on Extra-Legal Killings,
Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and
Security of Persons, chaired by the Department of Justice (DOJ), held its third regular meeting at
the GHQ Conference Room, Camp Aguinaldo. The IAC composed of the DOJ, Department of
the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of National Defense (DND), Office of
the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Office of the Presidential Adviser for
Political Affairs (OPAPA), Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC), Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation
(NBI), adopted the Operational Guidelines or the implementing rules and regulations of
Administrative Order No. 35 which was signed by President Benigno S. Aquino III last 22
November 2012.

The Operational Guidelines is an important step towards engendering an investigative

environment that will benefit greatly from the legal knowledge, experience and leadership of a
prosecutor to ensure an airtight investigation and successful prosecution of a greater number of
cases. The Guidelines call for the creation of special investigation teams which are composite
teams of investigators and prosecutors that will undertake case build-up of human rights
violations covered by the administrative order. Their efforts to secure a successful prosecution
will be monitored closely by special oversight teams composed of seasoned prosecutors and
investigators who are mandated to provide guidance to the investigators and prosecutors on the
ground and also submit recommendations to the JAC. Special tracker teams may also be
created to secure the apprehension of perpetrators who continue to successfully elude the
enforcement of their warrants of arrest.

In an interview, DOJ Secretary Leila M. Dc Lima shared her observations that, "these Guidelines
will be the important tools to train the composite teams of investigators and prosecutors all over
the country, not only to secure the paradigm shift in our ranks that will encourage our
prosecutors to take a more pro-active approach at the investigation level, but indubitably to
ensure a higher conviction rate on cases involving grave human rights violations." De Lima
observed, "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 which is to secure the
arrests and eventual convictions of perpetrators of these human rights violations and to address,
through these institutional mechanisms, the perceived continuing culture of impunity."

The IAC has also undertaken the inventory of cases of extra-legal killings (ELK), enforced
disappearances (ED), torture and other grave human rights violations from lists of all
government sources. De Lima confirmed that the Technical Working Group (TWG) assisting the
IAC has initially submitted a recommended list of priority ELK and ED cases which will be
validated by the IAC members within the week. These cases will thereafter be assigned to the
various A.O. No. 35 teams for investigation, prosecution or monitoring, as the case maybe.

Present in the said meeting were Sec. Voltaire Gazmin of DND, Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles of
OPAPP, Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Chief of Staff of AFP, Usec. Rafael Santos of DILG, Usec.
Luis Martin Gascon, Usec. Pio Lorenzo Batino of DND, Gen. Nestor Fajura of PNP and Atty.
Ferdinand Lavin of NBJ. Also present as resource persons and observers, were Commission on
Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loretta Ann Morales, CHR Commissioner Ma. Victoria
Cardona and Assistant Ombudsman Evelyn Baliton, who signed as witnesses to the Operational
Guidelines. The Office of the Ombudsman and the CHR also contributed to the list of A.O. No.
35 cases being processed by the TWG.

The next meeting of the IAC will be on the second week of June.

Enclosed: Operational Guidelines of A.O. No. 35


WHEREAS, Article II, Section ii of the 1987 Constitution declares that the State values the
dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights;

WHEREAS, Article III, Section i of the 1987 Constitution provides that no person shall be
deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law;

WHEREAS, Article III, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution provides that the right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and
seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable;

WHEREAS, Article III, Section 12(1) of the 1987 Constitution provides that any person under
investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of the right to
remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice;

WHEREAS, Article III, Sedtidn 12(2) of the 1987 Constitution provides that no torture, force,
violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate the free will shall be used against
any person, and that secret detention places, solitary incommunicado, or other similar forms of
detention are prohibited;

WHEREAS, Article III, Section 14(1) of the 1987 Constitution provides that no person shall be
held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law;

WHEREAS, Article III, Section 18(1) of the 1987 Constitution provides that no person shall be
detained solely by reason of political beliefs and aspirations;

WHEREAS, the Philippines is a state party to key international human rights instruments,
among which are: (a) the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and (b) the
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
WHEREAS, in becoming a State Party to these international human rights conventions, the
Philippines undertook to harmonize and reflect in its laws, policies and practices the provisions
of such conventions;

WHEREAS, being such a State Party, the Philippine Government passed Republic Act No.
9745, entitled, "An Act Penalizing Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or
Punishment and Presctibing Penalties Therefor" penalizing torture and other cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment or punishment;

WHEREAS, to further institutionalize the commitment of the Philippines to improve its human
rights record, the Philippine Government enacted Republic Act No. 9851, entitled, "Philippine
Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against

WHEREAS, to fully adhere to the principles and standards of absolute condemnation and
prohibition of enforced or involuntary disappearance, the President signed into law Republic Act
No. 10353, "An Act Defining and Penalizing Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance," a first of
its kind in Asia and another major legislative milestone on the protection and promotion of
human rights;

WHEREAS, commitment to resolve cases of political violence in various forms of human rights
violations caused President Aquino to establish an institutional legacy through Administrative
Order No. 35, entitled, "Creating 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," a comprehensive government machinery mandated to monitor cases of extrajudicial
killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other human rights violations;

WHEREAS, in order to ensure that political activist and media killings are effectively
investigated and successfully prosecuted, the Secretary of Justice and the Secretary of the
Department of Interior and Local Government jointly formulated and issued through a Joint
Department Order No. 003-2012, which outlines the Operational Guidelines for Prosecutors and
Law Enforcement Investigators in Evidence-Gathering, Investigation and Case Build-Up;
Inquest and Preliminary Investigation; and Trial of Cases of Political-Activist and Media

WHEREAS, there have been reported and validated violations of human rights of the
individuals throughout the years, which have served to create an impression of a culture of
impunity, wherein State and non state forces have been accused of silencing, through violence
and intimidation, legitimate dissent and opposition raised by members of the civil society, cause-
oriented groups, political movements, people's and non-government organizations, and by
ordinary citizens;

WHEREAS, most of these violations remain uninvestigated and unsolved, with the perpetrators
unidentified or unprosecuted, giving rise to more impunity;
WHEREAS, there is a need to revisit these unsolved cases of grave violations of the right to life,
liberty, and security of persons, whether committed as part of an apparent government policy in
the past or as recurring cases of unsanctioned individual abuse of power and authority by State
and non-state forces under the present;

WHEREAS, it is important to establish a respectable and validated databank of all specific

allegations of human rights violations in the form of extra-legal killings, enforced
disappearances, torture, and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty, and security of
persons in order to ensure the comprehensive, coherent, well-coordinated and quick response of
the Philippine Government; and

WHEREAS, the present Administration declares as a matter of paramount policy that there is no
room for all these forms of political violence and abuses of power by agents or elements of the
State or non- state forces, and towards this end commits to establish an institutional legacy of an
efficient, coherent, and comprehensive government machinery dedicated to the resolution of
unsolved cases of political violence in the form of extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances,
torture, and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty, and security of persons;

NOW THEREFORE, in order to carry out the implementation of Administrative Order No. 35,
the following Operational Guidelines are hereby prescribed and promulgated.

Statement on Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines

Human Rights Watch commends the work of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary
or arbitrary executions.

In addition to persistent politically motivated killings, Human Rights Watch remains concerned
by killings carried out with the knowledge or direct participation and support of local authorities
against so-called undesirables in the Philippines. Human Rights Watch documented many of
these killings in recent years, particularly on the southern island of Mindanao.

In our May 2014 report One Shot to the Head: Death Squad Killings in Tagum City,
Philippines we detailed the involvement of local government officials and police officers witha
death squad responsible for the extrajudicial killings of alleged drug dealers, petty criminals,
street children, and others over the past decade. This death squad also committed guns-for-hire
operations, targeting a journalist, a judge, and a tribal leader as well as local politicians and
businessmen. Particularly disturbing is the failure of the Philippine government to seriously
investigate the death squad and bring those responsible to justice.

Madame President, our findings of hundreds of extrajudicial killings in Tagum City reflects
broader problems of law enforcement and a dysfunctional criminal justice system in the
Philippines. The Tagum Death Squad, for instance, is an offshoot of similar death squad activity
in nearby Davao City. Past Human Rights Watch research indicate the spread of these abusive
anti-crime campaigns to several other cities in the country.
Extrajudicial executions, including politically motivated killings, by state security forces have
been a longstanding problem in the Philippines. Although the number of killings has decreased
dramatically in recent years compared to a decade ago, they continue largely with impunity.
There has been an uptick the past year in attacks on journalists and environmental activists.
Leftist activists, politicians and labor organizers also remain at risk.

We welcome in this regard the Congressional resolution N. 1222 adopted directs the
Congressional Committee on Human Rights to conduct an immediate investigation into
extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the Tagum Death Squad. This resolution is a much-needed
signal that the countrys culture of impunity for extrajudicial killings needs to come to an end.
We urge the Government of the Philippines to take all necessary steps to bring an end to
extrajudicial killings and ensure that respect for international human rights and humanitarian law
prevails in the Philippines, and encourage the Special Rapporteur to give particular attention to
these cases


At our regular village Sunday mass last week, I was listening intently to the parish priests
homily as he discussed the importance of being vigilant about what was happening in the
Philippines. He kept talking about the importance of the Fifth Commandant Thou shall not kill
and how it is relevant to what is happening on a large scale these past few months. I think he was
trying to remind us not to turn a blind eye to the rising numbers of deaths in just the past two

Obviously, many knew that a rise in death toll might come to pass. Those who voted for
President Rodrigo Duterte counted on him and his hard stance against crime and drugs to clean
the streets, as it were, of drug pushers, syndicates, and would-be criminals. And just two months
into office he appears to have kept his word. As they say, change has come indeed. However,
we also have to stop and ask ourselves at what cost?

I have supported President Dutertes stand against criminals. I understand where he is coming
from and we most definitely have to start making sure Filipinos feel safe in the Philippines again.
After all, for too long those who break the law would go by unpunished and as a result more and
more criminals are emboldened to do as they please because they dont fear the repercussions.
There are many aspects of the presidents solution to violence and crime that I can understand
and even support. Placing curfews on teenagers, alcohol consumption, and more are smart
preventive measures.

However, having said all that, I dont believe that shoot to kill is the best way to achieve the
goal of a safer country. When did fighting fire with fire ever actually work in the long run? There
has to be a better middle ground. If the presidents mandate of shoot to kill is followed what we
would end up with are even more vigilantes walking the streets with a convoluted sense of wild
wild west justice. This is not the way to make things safe again. In fact, things might get even
more dangerous.
I understand wanting to clean the streets for our families, but turning a blind eye to what is
happening right now just because we it feel it doesnt apply to us is wrong. It might seem that
way now, but in the end it will come back to haunt us. What happens when one day its someone
we love being wrongly accused and gunned out without a proper trial? Or worse, what if we, or
someone we love, become collateral damage in a random shoot-out? Its not far-fetched
considering the way people are reacting to the presidents mandate.

Just last week, a Party-list congressman in the House called on law enforcers to investigate the
alarming growing rate of extra-judicial killings and prosecute the killers in the governments
ongoing campaign against illegal drugs. After all, killing is just as punishable an offense as drug
use right? One will not stomp out the other. The representative reiterates that the government
cant just stand idly by while unidentified gunman posing as police roam the streets and kill
people with impunity. If we let that go, it will only be a matter of time before it gets completely
out of hand.

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

In fact, the bloody war on drugs in the country has already made headlines all over the world
on news sites like Time, The New York Times, Daily Mail, and so many more. In the short span
of time that the Duterte administration has proclaimed their war on drugs, over 500 people have
been killed. These pushers or addicts were executed in the name of the war on drugs but
were never given due process or any chance to prove their innocence. In many instances a simple
cardboard sign was placed by the victim with the world Pusher written on it.

Is this what our country has come to? Killing someone and making a claim of their guilt on
cardboard is enough to make it okay? We cant allow this to become the norm. Whats to stop
someone from killing an enemy that may or may not have had anything to do with drugs and just
claiming they are a pusher or an addict after the fact? At that point they wont be able to defend
themselves and it will be too late.

Im sure we all remember the case of pedicab driver Michael Siaron who was shot while looking
for a final fare for the evening on the streets of Manila. After pausing to grab an apple, Siaron
was targeted by gunmen on motorcycles who pumped him full of bullets before riding off. His
wife, who heard the shots, ran to the scene and pushed past the police to cradle her husbands
lifeless body on the asphalt. The photo has been circulating traditional and social media and has
since become a modern day Piet of the Manila slums as eloquently put by The New York

These people, many of whom are the ones who put Duterte in power because they were
desperate for change, dont always have a voice. We need to help be their voice. We all deserve
justice. I believe that those who are guilty should be punished, however, due process has to be
observed. We need to live in a world governed by law. In fact, over the weekend, Vice President
Leni Robredo also made it clear which side of the fence she is on when it comes to summary
executions. She is grateful that the President has made several statements saying the rule of law
and due process would be honored but she insists that the killings have to stop and enjoins both
the public and the media to help drive this message home.
We all want to live in a safe society. We want to be able to raise our children in a safer world. I
commend the president on his mission to stamp our crime, drugs and violence in the Philippines.
On that note, we are all aligned in wanting a better country. However, there has to be a way to do
this while letting due process and the rule of law prevail. I remember the Latin legal phrase
Fiat iustitia ruat clum, which translates into Let justice be done though the heavens fall.
Fair justice should always prevail, especially when lives are at stake.