EJK remains a ‘serious problem’ in the Philippines — U.S. State Department

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
EJK remains a �serious problem� in the Philippines � U.S. State Department
This file photo taken on May 18, 2017, shows police officers investigating an alleged drug dealer killed by unidentified gunman in Manila. A SWS survey in December 2018 suggests 78 percent of Filipinos are worried that they or someone they know would become victims of extrajudicial killings.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — A report from the United States (U.S.) Department of State said that extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines remain a “serious problem”.

In a 58-page Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the agency said that the human rights situation in the Philippines has “no significant changes”.

However, the report said that the number of incidents of arbitrary and extrajudicial killings and “some other abuses by government agents” decreased in 2023.

The U.S. State Department attributed the EJKs to the “arbitrary or unlawful killings by police in connection with antidrug operations” as the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. continued the war on drugs started by his predecessor, former President Rodrigo Duterte.

Compared to Duterte’s method, which saw thousands of casualties as recorded by local and international human rights organizations, the agency pointed out that the current administration focused on “treatment and rehabilitation, due process, and rule of law-based investigations.”

Citing data from the non-governmental organization Dahas PH, the agency said that there were 209 killings related to anti-drug operations from January to August 2023.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also looked into 51 new complaints of alleged EJKs, as reported by the agency.

These incidents, which affected 82 victims, reportedly involved six personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP), two members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, seven insurgents, four civilians and 33 unidentified individuals.

Aside from these incidents, the report also mentioned that the CHR investigated 15 drug-related EJKs with 18 victims where eight of the cases involved the police. 

The report of the U.S. State Department likewise mentioned the case of slain Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and five other individuals who were killed in March 2023.

The alleged mastermind of the killing of Degamo is expelled lawmaker Arnolfo Teves Jr., who is currently in pre-trial detention in Timor-Leste.

RELATED: Timor-Leste police nabs Interpol red-listed Teves

The agency also cited the killing of 17-year-old Jemboy Baltazar, shot dead by Navotas City police officers in August 2023.

The six cops were initially charged with murder by the Department of Justice last year. However, five of these cops received lighter penalties while one was acquitted.

Aside from the EJKs, the report also tackled other significant human rights issues such as arbitrary or unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture or inhumane punishment by and on behalf of the government, other physical abuses by nonstate actors, use of child soldiers by terrorists, serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom and extensive gender-based violence.

The agency submits its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices to the U.S. Congress on a yearly basis.

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