Press Release
September 26, 2020

De Lima files bill to stop EJKs, ensure an independent investigation of summary killings and provide compensation for victims

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure which seeks to define and criminalize extrajudicial killings and related acts and guarantee state obligations to effectively investigate and properly document EJKs which remain unabated amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In filing Senate Bill (SB) No. 1842, De Lima, the staunchest critic of the administration's war on drugs, lamented that the global pandemic, which is the worst in recent memory, did not stop the bloodlust under the present regime.

"Four years since the promise to win the drug war in three to six months was made - the promise remains unfulfilled, but the killings still persist, the air is still pervaded by the stench of cold blood, and the streets still are the playground of trigger-happy villains who slay without end," she said.

"As Filipinos grappled to survive the world's longest quarantine, the killers roamed more freely - unchecked, without legal ramifications, and with even more impunity. While the people stayed in their homes as they were told, the bloodshed lingered like a virus so potent that the killings rose by half," she added.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported that 5,526 suspects were killed in police operations from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2019 but estimates by domestic human rights groups bring the death toll to as high as 27,000.

Meanwhile, data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) revealed that the killings became even more malignant amid the pandemic as "the police killed 50 percent more people between April to July 2020 than they did in the previous four-month period."

De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, said the recent health crisis was also "used as a scheme to continue to perpetuate the brutal crackdown on activists and environmental defenders," citing recent murders of Zara Alvarez, a paralegal for the human rights group Karapatan, and Randall Echanis, a leader of the peasant group Anakpawis, in separate incidents.

"Nakukulangan pa ba ang administrasyong Duterte sa dami ng namamatay? Libo-libo na ang biktima ng EJK. Libo-libo na rin ang namatay dahil sa pandemya. Pero walang patid pa rin ang mga karumal-dumal na pamamaslang!," De Lima said.

SB No. 1842, which is adopted from the UP Law Center Institute of Human Rights (UP IHR) paper, provides for the definition of important terms that would prevent the perpetrators of EJKs from circumventing the law.

For one, it seeks to define EJK as "the unlawful or arbitrary killing or arbitrary deprivation of life committed by State agents or non-State actors," who are either "acting under actual or apparent authority, or color of law, or upon the instruction of, or under the direction or control of, or by policy, order or behest of, the State in carrying out the conduct..."

"It not only defines EJK, it likewise imposes punishment not only on state actors, but also upon non-state actors who are equally guilty of committing the atrocious act of extrajudicial killing. It imposes penalties not only upon the principals of the crime, but also upon the accessories thereof," she stressed.

Under SB No. 1842, for the investigation to be effective, it is essential that the persons in charge of such investigation be independent, de jure and de facto, of the ones involved in the case - requiring not only hierarchical or institutional independence, but also actual independence.

The measure also mandates that State officials who have authority to investigate extrajudicial killings must be rigorously trained on effective investigation to come up with science-based and objective assessment of the incident and be free from interference from officials involved, among others.

"One of the most salient provisions is the section that provides for a prima facie case for arbitrary deprivation of life and presumption of liability. This provision would be a powerful deterrent that would make the perpetrators of EJKs think twice before pulling the trigger because they could no longer hide behind the flimsy excuse of impulse," she said.

Acknowledging the importance of reparation of victims of EJKS, the bill also seeks to establish a Human Rights Violations Victims Fund where the victim or his/her legal heirs shall have the right to claim compensation from - for crimes committed against the victim's life, rights and dignity.

"Compensation and reparation which, though could no longer bring life unduly taken back, could at least help the victims and their families to heal and move on from the trauma and the pain," she said.

De Lima first filed SB No. 1197, also known as the "Anti-Extrajudicial Killing Act" during the 17 th Congress and refiled the said bill this 18th Congress as SB No. 371, but it gathered dust in the Senate Justice and Human Rights Committee under the Chairmanship of Senator Richard Gordon.

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