House body drops use of ‘extrajudicial killings’

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MEMBERS of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Order and Safety agreed last week to drop the use of term “extrajudicial killings’ to refer to the deaths of drug suspects in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, pointing out that there is no “judicial killing,” or death penalty, in the country.

The House panel will instead use the term “death under investigation.”

House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu raised the matter during a committee hearing, and asked if judicial killing is even a practice 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,” Garcia said.

Quoting Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, Garcia said extrajudicial killing was defined 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.”

“And therefore right now, we don’t have the death penalty in the Philippines. How could we have such a thing as a judicial killing? 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,” she said.

United Nation bodies have interchangeably used the terms “extrajudicial execution,” “summary execution” and “arbitrary execution” to refer to intentional murders of crime suspects by law enforcers.

In a 2009 report to the UN General Assembly, UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said: “After conducting extensive interviews in Manila, Baguio, and Davao, he (Alston) reported that extrajudicial executions were widespread, and included government sanctioned killings of members of civil society groups, and vigilante killings of suspected criminals by a death squad in Davao.”

No death penalty
Garcia said the term only applied to countries that impose capital punishment.

“So such a judicial proceeding or process is possible, the condition is possible. But here in the Philippines, there is no such possibility because we do not have the death penalty,” Garcia argued.

The lawmaker then moved to adopt the terminology of the Philippine National Police (PNP), which is “death under investigation,” “to put things in proper perspective and correctly define the issue.”

Members of the committee, headed by Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop, agreed.

The use of the term extrajudicial killing was earlier raised by Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo.

“The most controversial feature of that campaign is the so-called extrajudicial killings or summary execution. May we ask what is the stand of the PNP on this? Does it condone extrajudicial killings?” asked Castelo.

PNP Director for Plans Lazarus Vargas said the police never used the term “extrajudicial killings” to describe the deaths of drug suspects during police operations or in the hands of unknown groups.

“We use the term death under investigation because as you’ve earlier said there is no such thing as extrajudicial killing. We did not define it. It is used by organizations outside the PNP. It did not come from us,” said Vargas.

Chief Supt. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan, acting director of the PNP directorate for operations, said there were 1,571 deaths under investigation, but not all drug-related.

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