Only 1 percent of the extrajudicial killings during the nine years of the Arroyo administration and the first two months of the Aquino administration have been resolved in court, a recent study showed.
According to the report by human rights lawyer Al A. Parreño in partnership with the Asia Foundation, only four of the 305 cases of extrajudicial killings from 2001 to August this year have attained conviction in court.
Curiously, the most number of the killings occurred in Pampanga, home province of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who now sits as one of its representatives in Congress. The study does not offer an explanation for that province’s deadly record.
However, in a footnote, the study states that “our staff was repeatedly prohibited from doing our research in the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Pampanga.”
In the first weeks of the Aquino administration, the killings have continued. At least three activists — Bayan Muna Aklan coordinator Fernando Baldomero, Anakpawis leader Pascual Guevarra, and public school teacher and Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) member Mark Francisco — have perished in unsolved murders.
Meanwhile, two provincial broadcasters —Jose Daguio in Kalinga and Miguel Belen in Camarines Sur — were attacked during Aquino’s first week in office. Daguio was killed while Belen survived the attack.
Contacted by email, Parreño said, “What shocked me most about this is how our taxes seem to be paying for the death of thought leaders, artists, stubborn critics and catalysts. With the numerous state employees accused, we ourselves are probably paying for our country’s moral and social decline.”
Parreño said 264 of the 305 incidents involving the killing of activists, journalists and communist rebels occurred during the Arroyo years, most of them in the year 2006 with 70 incidents.
Most suspects identified by witnesses of these killings belong to the military. Parreño said 19 percent of identified suspects in cases currently pending in court are members of the Armed Forces.
The findings of the Parreño report corroborate an earlier study by United Nations Special Rapporteur Phillip Alson, which said that the military has a “deliberate strategy” to hunt down and eliminate leaders of leftist groups.
Of the 305 cases, 21 percent are undergoing trial, 18 percent are being investigated, and 16 percent had been dismissed.
The report, however, excluded the November 23 massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao due to the high number of casualties in a single incident. Fifty-seven people — 32 of them journalists — were killed in the said carnage.
The study likewise labeled 32 percent of the cases as “unsolved,” meaning not a single suspect has been identified.
“This is due to the fact that the identities of the assailants are still undetermined. Thus, no case can be filed in court,” Parreño said in his study.
He attributed the high number of unidentified suspects to the pattern of how extrajudicial killings are carried out in the country.
“The professional hit man in an extrajudicial killing knows how to hide their identities. Most of the time, they don’t leave any evidence that could link them to the murder,” Parreño said.
Parreño also said “non-identification of assailants” is also the leading cause of delay in court proceedings on extrajudicial killings.
The remaining eight percent of the cases were archived by the courts while three percent have been scheduled for arraignment, according to the study.
Highest in Pampanga
The lawyer recorded 41 cases of extrajudicial slays in Pampanga, mostly involving politicians and communist rebels. Negros Occidental came in a close second with 39 recorded killings.
The study likewise echoed findings of earlier reports that identified the years of the Arroyo administration as the period with the highest number of extrajudicial killings.
Activists as targets
The same report also noted that 32 percent of the victims of extrajudicial killings during the past nine years were members and officers of activist groups.
Other victims include elected government officials (15 percent), journalists (15 percent), farmers (10 percent), rebels (8 percent), lawyers (5 percent), public officers (3 percent), religious leaders (3 percent), and judges (2 percent), the report said.
In his report, Parreño said that extrajudicial killings involving activists, journalists and rebels seem to be an “epidemic” in the Philippines.
“While we consider ours a more human rights friendly country, it is very clear we have a human rights disaster in our midst,” he said.
To solve the “alarming” increase in the number of extrajudicial killings during the past nine years, Parreño recommended that the current government undertake institutional reforms.
The human rights lawyer said the Aquino administration should set up “an independent watchdog” under the Commission on Human Rights that will standardize data on extrajudicial killings.
The same body must also follow up the progress of cases involving these killings and publish them in monthly bulletins.
Parreno also advised the Aquino government to show “political will” in curbing the number of extrajudicial killings under its watch.
President Aquino, during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July, vowed to go after the perpetrators of extralegal killings.
Aquino has also instructed the military to prioritize human rights in its operations following a string of activist killings that occurred during his first few days in office.