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EJKs and an old administrative order

THE over 3,000 Filipinos killed in police operations in the anti-drugs campaign were all drug dealers, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano told an interviewer of international news organization Al Jazeera last Friday.

Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos said the only possible extra-judicial killing (EJK) in the Duterte administration was the death of a Catanduanes journalist. He was reacting to human rights organization Karapatan’s claim of 78 political EJKs and Kalikasan People’s Network claim of 12 slain green activists.

In Malacañang, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said there have been no EJKs in the present administration. The scores of reported killings do not technically qualify as EJKs, he said, citing an Administrative Order issued by then President Benigno S. Aquino III in 2013.

This order defined an “extra-judicial killing” as one where “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 apparently mistaken or identified to be so.” And “the person responsible for the killing is a state agent or non-state agent; and the method or circumstances of attack reveal a deliberate intent to kill.”

With this definition, many of those killed in the ongoing anti-drugs campaign, such as young Kian de los Santos, would not qualify as EJK victims as they were not affiliated with a political or other cause. And the policemen involved did not have a deliberate intent to kill – they killed, they claimed, because the victim fought back, “nanlaban.”

“AO has not been repealed or revoked. Thus the definition of EJK remains the same,” Abella said.

Against this legal definition by a Malacañang administrative order is the commonly understood definition of an EJK as one which was carried out not in accordance with judicial processes and with the rule of law, including rules on arrests and other police operations.

Senators Franklin Drilon, Grace Poe, and Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV charged that PNP is “playing with pure semantics” and hiding behind a former administration’s definition of EJK. As for the general public, one survey by Social Weather Stations showed that 54 percent of the respondents said they do not believe the PNP claim that those killed in police operations all fought back.

The anti-drugs campaign remains a major program and accomplishment of the Duterte administration. But it is time to review the police operations used thus far to ensure scrupulous adherence to established legal processes. It may also be time to stop using a faulty administrative order to claim 100 percent perfection in the campaign.