Manila: Due to legal and ethical questions, the Philippines’ House of Representatives on Monday decided to avoid the use of the phrase “extrajudicial killings” to describe deaths in the ongoing drive against crime.
Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia, during a hearing conducted by the House panel on public order and safety on deaths involved in the anti-drugs campaign, said that effective immediately, hearings, investigations and reports on extrajudicial killings will instead use the term “death under investigation”.
Garcia said, for the sake of propriety and clarity, Congress needed to revise the terms it used to describe the fatalities in the anti-drugs and anti-crime campaign.
“I am really curious what the definition of extrajudicial killing is because extrajudicial would mean outside of the parameters of a ‘judicial’ killing. But do we have such a thing as judicial killing in the Philippines?” she said.
She said the term extrajudicial killing was a misnomer.
She said it could not be used because it would be misinterpreted as meaning that the Philippines also undertakes “judicial killings” — as in execution of criminals.
“As far as I know, the last law that was passed that imposed the death penalty by lethal injection was Republic Act 8177. But this was repealed by RA 9346. And therefore right now, we don’t have the death penalty in the Philippines. How could we have such a thing as a judicial killing? And yet it is now so commonly used, that even in the Senate, there was an investigation conducted by the Committee on Justice as regards extrajudicial killing,” said Garcia.
Garcia said, if the definition by the universal online reference, Wikipedia, is to be taken as credible, the term extrajudicial killing refer to the killing, mainly politically motivated, of a person by governmental authorities or dominant political groups without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process.”
“So there is the condition of the possibility of a judicial proceeding or legal process. This definition may apply to the 10 top countries that still have capital punishment. So such a judicial proceeding or process is possible, the condition is possible. But here in the Philippines, there is no such possibility because we do not have the death penalty,” Garcia explained.
The Philippines had abolished the death penalty during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Previous to this, the country’s move to execute its first death row convict in over two decades, Leo Echegaray, was met with stiff opposition by the Roman Catholic Church.
Echegaray, was accused of raping his 10-year-old step daughter in February 1999.
The play on terms on “extrajudicial killing” was discussed at the House panel as it conducts investigations into the unexplained executions of 1,571 people, mostly those who are expected to be involved in illegal drug transactions.
According to Police Chief Supt. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan, acting director for operations of the national police, said there are 1,571 deaths under investigation. He said these are not all drug-related cases. “There are still cases that we are still identifying,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte had unleashed a war against drugs at the start of his administration in July. He described the menace of illicit substance abuse as the root of other crimes such as murder, rape, theft, among others.