DoJ chief: EJK, shortcuts end

Criminal justice strong — Remulla
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla.PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Senate PRIB

The era of shortcuts in combatting crime, pinpointed as the root of the extrajudicial killing (EJK) allegations has ended.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla assured yesterday that the government is committed to its efforts to safeguard human rights and prevent extrajudicial killings and other barbaric practices.

“The Department of Justice (DoJ) is serious in its efforts to safeguard human rights and thwart EJKs, including other barbaric practices,” said Remulla in a statement.

The DoJ chief guaranteed that “reforms are in place to change the mindset and attitude of erring law enforcers and make them responsible for their actions.”

“We are taking all the necessary steps to strengthen the criminal justice system and hold to account the perpetrators of these violations,” he added.

Deep commitment

Those in charge of the administration of justice should be reminded that “there are no shortcuts to enforcing peace and order as it is of primordial consideration as responsible state enforcers to uphold the rule of law and resolve to protect and promote human rights.”

“The DoJ as the principal law agency and legal counsel of the government remains deeply committed to the administration’s thrust towards a Bagong Pilipinas — one that is safe, peaceful, and just,” Remulla stressed.

Remulla issued the statement after the United States Department of State in a report said EJKs remained a “serious problem” in the Philippines.

This was contained in a 58-page Country Report on Human Rights Practices wherein the State Department said the human rights situation in the Philippines showed “no significant changes.”

Numbers down

The report said though that the number of incidents of arbitrary and extrajudicial killings and “some other abuses by government agents” decreased in 2023.

It attributed the EJKs to the “arbitrary or unlawful killings by police in connection with antidrug operations” as the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. continued the war on drugs started by his predecessor, former President Rodrigo Duterte.

Citing data from the non-governmental organization Dahas PH, the State Department said there were 209 killings related to anti-drug operations from January to August 2023.

Positive steps

In its latest report on the Generalized Scheme of Preferences in November last year, the European Union cited the willingness of the Marcos administration “to engage the international community on the issue of human rights,” having actively participated in multiple mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

It noted “several positive steps” taken by the government, including its “new focus” on prevention and rehabilitation in the campaign against drugs and the visits by several United Nations Special Rapporteurs.

In February this year, visiting UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan took note of the DoJ’s measures to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of violence against journalists and human rights defenders, and asked the government to further bolster the agency’s Administrative Order (AO) 35.

AO 35 is a mechanism that brings together various agencies of the government against impunity.

Last 14 March, the DoJ and the Commission on Human Rights signed a memorandum of agreement aimed at facilitating assistance to victims of human rights abuses, summary executions, torture, and enforced disappearances, among others.

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