Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed alarm over the recent rise of extrajudicial killings in Quezon City slums, saying this shows how the death squads are taking advantage of the current COVID-19 pandemic in their murderous campaign.
De Lima, a staunch critic of the administration’s war on drugs, issued the statement after Father Robert Reyes recently revealed that the killings in Barangay Pinyahan in Quezon City continue to persist amid the global health crisis.
“Not even a global pandemic can stop this climate of murderous impunity that has gripped us since 2016. And it has become an even deadlier virus, taking away lives, gangland-style, while people grapple with ways to survive this health and economic crisis,” she said.
“Fr. Robert Reyes has been lighting candles at the San Isidro Labrador Parish since July for those killed by motorcycle-riding tandems in the slums of Brgy. Pinyahan. Sunod-sunod ang patayan. As if the deaths from this pandemic are not enough,” she added.
Reyes disclosed that 10 summary executions were recorded in Barangay Pinyahan, which is located near the headquarters of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, since January 2020.
He also said half of the unlawful deaths took place during a four-week stretch.
In just a span of two weeks in July, Reyes said he presided over funeral masses for three people, namely Jeselyn Ordono, Gilbert Paala, and Jonathan Burce.
“As I write this dispatch, I received reports from my staff of two more killings in Brgy. Pinyahan, one in V. Luna, and the other, along NIA Road,” De Lima said.
Lt. Col. Bernouli Abalos, Quezon City Police District-Station 10 chief, however, belied allegations that there is a high incidence of summary executions in the said barangay.
“it is hard to comment. There is no proof of any government-sanctioned killings,” Abalos said.
“Such (statement) could be a sweeping remark without any proof,” Abalos added, referring to the statements made by De Lima and Fr. Reyes.
“Should there be a case of shooting, we will still have to identify witnesses, establish the motive and even review footages of closed circuit televisions in the area,” he added.
QCPD director Ronnie Montejo, meanwhile, could not be reached for comment.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, continue to lament how Filipinos repeatedly witnessed these unjust killings since President Rodrigo Duterte openly endorsed shoot-to-kills and DIY arrests against perceived violators of his “peace and order” campaigns.
“What is more alarming now are the muted cries for justice, as orphaned loved ones mourn in dreadful silence rather than suffer the same fate. They’re too scared to complain.
“Justice under this regime isn’t exactly for the oppressed and marginalized. But we should never allow those muted cries to turn into indifference,” she added.
De Lima urged Filipinos to continue demanding for justice and accountability for all the victims of the senseless killings in the country.
“We should regain our voices and refuse to be silenced. Resist! We must never stop sounding the alarm bells, “ she said.
De Lima has reintroduced a measure, Senate Bill No. 371, which seeks to define acts that constitute extrajudicial killings and ensure accountability over the suspicious deaths recorded under the Duterte administration.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police said a data-sharing agreement entered into by the DOJ and the Commission on Human Rights will help boost the government’s move to investigate cases of extra-judicial killings and human rights violations.
“Well, that’s good. Actually, DOJ and the CHR are our partners in law enforcement. DOJ helps us with all the cases that we filed, documents etcetera., helps us in the procedures on how we do the operations that’s why any kind of idea with departments would be very good for us. They are there to help us. We will evaluate that (memorandum of agreement),” PNP chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan told reporters.
Cascolan made the remark in response to the memorandum of agreement signed by the DOJ and CHR to further strengthen Administrative Order No. 35 (AO 35) which created an inter-agency committee on EJKs, enforced disappearances, torture, and other grave violations on the right to life, liberty, and security of persons.
Cascolan, however, maintained that there is no proof that EJKs were perpetrated by the police, and even told critics to come to him to ask for investigation on such cases.
“First, if you have that notion, come to me, we will investigate. Number two, there is no such thing as EJK. Everything, the people in the PNP has actually fought hard to really reduce illegal drugs and it’s survival for our people (and) it’s not only the criminals who are being killed here. There are a lot of PNP officers who already died. Some are even PNP officers, many of them are still young but they do their job because they are passionate enough to stop or rid this country of illegal drugs,” he said.
On September 2, Undersecretary Markk Perete and CHR Commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento signed the agreement in a virtual ceremony, aimed at facilitating the investigation and case build-up that lead to prosecution in cases within AO 35’s mandate.
The data-sharing agreement includes sharing of investigation reports in AO 35 cases, promotion of closer cooperation, evidence gathering and prosecution, security measures, and privacy policies governing data sharing with consideration of the interests of victims and complainants.
The agreement will facilitate DOJ and CHR collaboration in bringing perpetrators to justice.
AO 35 serves as the state’s mechanism dedicated to resolving cases of political violence such as EJKs, enforced disappearances, and torture, among other similar grave human rights violations. With PNA