At least 23 drug suspects were recently killed since the inauguration of President Duterte on June 30. Among these, 22 suspected drug related killings were done outside police operations and the increasing number of killings have alarmed human rights advocates. Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of people’s lawyers, said the killings must be halted.
“There’s a danger that Duterte’s electoral victory may be seen as a symbolic victory for a notion that’s already spreading in the Philippines: that extrajudicial vigilante-style killings of suspected criminals is a legitimate approach to crime control,” said Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch for Asia.
Seemingly, this action taken by the “vigilantes” is in consonance with the NPA’s implementation of its ‘Kangaroo Court’, a justice system wherein the one that tries is also the one that executes alleged offenders. This also manifests the NPA’s gross disregard for human rights.
President Duterte’s hard-line stance on crime is wildly popular in Davao. Raul Tolentino, 82, who has practiced law here since the 1960s, said that popularity stemmed from the 1980s, when Communist insurgents plagued the region and the city was notorious for bloody mayhem. Mr. Tolentino recalled armed rebel groups entering the city at will, and criminal gangs engaging in shootouts in broad daylight.
For more than 40 years, the NPA’s ‘armed struggle’ has not solved any of the country’s problems but has caused even more problems. Four decades of armed struggle have also brought senseless deaths and miseries to hundreds of thousands of Filipinos and destroyed the future of many of our youths. The use of violence in pursuing political, economic and social objectives is really not acceptable and should be condemned.
Claims by the NPA that defendants receive a fair hearing during its people’s court proceedings are not supported by the facts, Human Rights Watch said. Philip Alston, the former United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions who investigated extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in 2007, described the people’s courts as “either deeply flawed or simply a sham.”
The NPA has long admitted to killing government officials and civilians whom the NPA deems to have engaged in acts “against the people.” They have also killed allegedly traitorous NPA or Communist Party members.
On April 21, 2014, NPA rebels shot and killed Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. of Gonzaga town, Cagayan province. On July 27, 2012, they killed Datu Causing Ogao, a leader of an indigenous people’s group, in Davao City. On February 28, 2011, they killed Jeffrey Nerveza, a civilian, in Albay, Bicol. On August 19, 2011, the NPA killed Raymundo “Monding” Agaze in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. On July 13, 2010, NPA members shot and killed Mateo Biong, Jr., a former mayor of Giporlos town, Eastern Samar. That same month, they shot and killed Sergio Villadar, a sugar cane farmer, in Escalante City, Negros Occidental. All of these people, the NPA claimed, had been found guilty by its people’s courts.
In its October 25, 2015 statement announcing the deaths of the Otazas, the NPA said it is waging a “people’s war” and it “has been pursuing revolutionary justice by meting appropriate capital punishment against war criminals to remove the continuation of the human rights violations and render justice.”
As a party to an internal armed conflict, the NPA and Vigilante groups are obligated to abide by international humanitarian law, including common article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its Second Additional Protocol of 1977 (Protocol II), to which the Philippines is party. International humanitarian law prohibits killing civilians, mistreating anyone in custody, and convicting anyone in proceedings that do not meet international fair trial standards. Article 6 of Protocol II specifies that criminal courts must be independent and impartial, and the accused shall have “all necessary rights and means of defense,” among other guarantees. Those tried by people’s courts are typically convicted in absentia, thus denied the right to be tried in one’s presence before an impartial court.
We call on the NUPL and other Human Rights Advocates to condemn the summary executions or killings of helpless civilians. The NPA and vigilantes should end this charade of unjust ‘people’s courts’ and cease all executions.