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  5. Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions
    In the Philippines, 2001-2006

 
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FOCUS June 2007 Volume 48

Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions
In the Philippines, 2001-2006

Maria Socorro Diokno

The arbitrary deprivation of life is reprehensible and unjustifiable; killings perpetrated in the guise of "maintaining peace and order in society," or "combating terrorism," or "protecting the stability of the nation," are unacceptable excuses for the killings of suspected criminal offenders, journalists and opponents of the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now taking place throughout the Philippines. This report contains information relevant to understanding the phenomenon of extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions in the Philippines

Killings of political opponents

The number of political opponents summarily executed remains in dispute. Philippine government bodies tasked to investigate political killings admit there are about 100 or so victims killed between 2001 and 2006. The human rights community, on the other hand, claims there are between 103[1] to 819[2] victims for the same period

The disparity between figures cited by government and the human rights community can perhaps be traced to non-cooperation by victims' families and witnesses with government agencies. Victims' families and witnesses fear reprisal; some claim they were warned against providing information on the killings of their loved ones. Others have no faith or have lost trust in the very agencies tasked to investigate the killings, believing, rightly or wrongly, that these agencies-or other agents of government-are responsible for the killings. Hence many witnesses and victims' families have not cooperated with government agencies investigating the killings

The disparity between figures cited by members of the human rights community is perhaps best explained by two factors: first, one group includes those killed during military operations while the other does not; second, each group documents cases of victims within their respective spheres

Women and men who have opposed the present administration have fallen victim to political killings; data from human rights groups indicates more men than women have been killed

Most victims of political killings were shot to death.[3] The modus operandi of political killings follow similar patterns: victims first receive death threats, sometimes via unsigned letters or through text messages received on their mobile phones. Victims then notice some form of surveillance on their homes, offices or places they frequent, complaining to their families or to their organizations of persons following them. In some cases, leaflets labeling the victim as a "communist-terrorist" are distributed within the community where the victim resides. In other cases, soldiers conduct "public meetings" where they present a version of the power point presentation "Knowing the Enemy" and read aloud the names of "wanted persons" listed in the "Military Order of Battle;" some victims were reportedly among those listed in the "Military Order of Battle." Victims are shot, sometimes in public places, sometimes at home, by assailants in teams of between four to six armed men, in civilian clothing, riding motorcycles with bonnets or bandanas covering their faces

Some victims of political killings belong to-or are affiliated with-organizations identified by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as "enemies."

Sometime in 2005, a power point presentation entitled "Knowing the Enemy, " produced by the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, became available to the public. The power point presentation consists of 335 slides; among others, it presents what it calls the "strategic development of the Communist Party of the Philippines;" it also identifies the alleged "echelon of alliances" of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the "role" these "alliances" play in the "protracted people's war."

The power point presentation does not only identify the alleged "echelon of alliances," but names some fifty-four organizations and groups, calling them "legal fronts" or "legal front organizations" of the Communist Party of the Philippines-thus, "enemies" of the state

Also in 2005, the Headquarters of the Northern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines released a book entitled "Trinity of War Book III. " The book, like the power point presentation discussed above, presents the history and strategies of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the "Philippine Revolutionary Movement." It also delves into the "echelon of alliances" and describes the facets of work of the Communist Party and its "echelon of alliances." The book contains a series of annexes entitled "Watchlist CPP-NPA-NDF Allied Organizations;" many organizations in the "watch list" are similarly identified in the power point presentation

These so-called "watch lists" contravene the 1987 Constitution, which mandates full respect for the political beliefs and aspirations of all Filipinos;[4] the Constitution not only upholds the rights of Filipinos to form and join organizations, but also encourages them to do so.[5] The Constitution even forbids the arrest and detention of persons "solely by reason of [their] political beliefs and aspirations."[6]

Also, there are no existing laws that authorize the identification of organizations as "enemies." Republic Act 1700,[7] the Anti-Subversion Law, which, among others, outlawed "subversive organizations," has since been repealed by Republic Act 7636.[8] No "anti-terrorism" bills, which propose to outlaw "terrorist organizations," have yet been passed by Congress

In addition, it is unclear what standards, if any, were applied to warrant the inclusion of organizations like the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, founded on 15 February 1945 as the Catholic Welfare Organization, primarily to address the aftermath of the Second World War,[9] or the Free Legal Assistance Group, founded in 1974 to provide free legal services to victims of human rights violations in the martial law era, in the so-called "watch list of enemies of the state."

It is also unclear, who, specifically, included or ordered the inclusion of organizations, and what capacities, if any, such entity or individual possesses. Neither is it clear what process, if any, was followed. The identification of an organization as an "enemy" based solely on the discretion of the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is dangerous, as the killings of political opponents indicate

The identification of organizations as "enemies" appears part of the government's anti-insurgency campaign. The legal amendment that puts the primary responsibility to suppress the insurgency and address serious threats to internal security on the Armed Forces of the Philippines; [10] may be inconsistent with the constitutional provisions on supremacy of the civilian authority over the military, and on the goal of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to secure "the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory."

Arguably, this constitutional provision may be interpreted as limiting the role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to the defense of the country from threats by external or foreign aggressors. This interpretation was apparently adopted by the Philippine Congress when it enacted, in 1990, Republic Act 6975.[11] Section 12 of this law assigned the Department of the Interior and Local Government-and the Philippine National Police-the "primary role of preserving internal security, leaving to the Armed Forces of the Philippines the primary role of preserving external security."

However, this interpretation was abandoned in 1998, with the enactment of Republic Act 8551 (Annex 7).[12] Section 3 of this law relieved the Department of the Interior and Local Government-and the Philippine National Police-of primary responsibility over internal security matters and mandated the Philippine National Police to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines through "information gathering and performance of ordinary police functions."

The support role of the Philippine National Police was further strengthened in 2006 by the adoption of Executive Order 546,[13] which directed it to provide "active support" to the Armed Forces of the Philippines even in combat operations

The National Internal Security Plan, the guiding policy document on "threats to internal security," was written sometime in 2004 and has since been "enhanced;" it is a "classified" document, not available to the public.[14] FLAG has, however, requested copies of portions of the Plan-or other documents that discuss the Plan-that are not "classified."

The strategic framework of the National Internal Security Plan is what is referred to as the "holistic"[15] or "whole of government"[16] approach to internal security. The Accomplishment Report of the Department of National Defense for the period covering January to June 2004 describes the strategy thus:

The strategy of the Holistic Approach is a coordinated, synchronized, interrelated and mutually supporting campaign of the whole government machinery and its resources to uplift the socio-economic condition of the Filipino people, particularly those at the local levels.[17]

The "holistic" or "whole of government" strategy to internal security has four major components: (a) political, legal, diplomatic; (b) information; (c) socio-economic and psychosocial; and (d) security. It is pursued through Internal Security Operations Plans, employing the operational strategy of "Operations, Intelligence, Civil Military Operations, ... in coordination with civilian government agencies"[18] that seek to "clear, hold, consolidate and develop insurgent areas." [19]

Apparently part of the "political, legal, diplomatic" component of the National Internal Security Plan is the creation of the Inter Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) through Executive Order 493,[20] tasked "to provide effective and efficient handling and coordination of the investigative and prosecutorial aspects of the fight against threats to national security." FLAG believes the creation of IALAG signals unwarranted intrusion by the military intelligence community into principally civilian functions

The National Security Adviser leads IALAG; its members include representatives from the Departments of Justice, National Defense, Interior and Local Government, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, and such other units tasked by the National Security Adviser

IALAG's principal task is to "coordinate all national security cases." Executive Order 493 classifies the following as "national security cases:" rebellion, sedition and related offenses, and "national interest cases that threaten national security."

It is important to note that no similar body was created to "coordinate" the cases against those responsible for the killings of political opponents, journalists and suspected criminal offenders. No additional funds were appropriated for this purpose

Other activities conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in many parts of the country also seem to be part of the "psycho-social" and "security" components of the National Internal Security Plan. In some parts of the country, residents are required to present their residence certificates upon demand by soldiers; even children and minors are reportedly required to present residence certificates (known in local parlance as cedula), even if the law on residence certificates does not require persons below 18 years of age to secure these certificates.[21] Failure to present cedulas is perceived by soldiers as tacit admission that the person failing to present a cedula is part of the insurgency, hence said person is often arrested without warrant, or interrogated without the presence of counsel, or placed on a "watch list," or otherwise harassed. Persons placed on a "watch list" or "order of battle" are "invited" to present themselves before the military at a military camp "to clear their names." These persons are then "questioned," "interrogated" or "investigated" by soldiers without the presence of counsel; some are tortured; others who may be released are "required" to report to military camps, sometimes twice a day. In other parts of the country, checkpoints manned by "civilian volunteers," including persons who have been forcibly required to man checkpoints, or by soldiers, are often set up in strategic points throughout the province, to monitor all entries and departures; at these checkpoints, persons are often subjected to "questioning." These actions often take place in areas with the highest numbers of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; as a result, residents, including families of victims and witnesses to the executions, are in a state of constant fear; it is not surprising therefore why victims' families and witnesses refuse to cooperate with government in the investigation of cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

For the full document, please contact: Maria Socorro Diokno, Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), Room 204 Cabrera II Building, 64 Timog Avenue, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines; ph (632) 96-54-77; fax (632) 817-5410 Attn.Diokno 14862 SCC BH PS; e-mail: flag@flag.com.ph

Endnotes

1. Data supplied by Task Force Detainees of the Philippines

2. Data supplied by KARAPATAN; KARAPATAN admits that their documentation includes those killed during military operations

3. Data supplied by Task Force Detainees of the Philippines indicates that 102 of 103 victims were shot; 1 victim was stabbed; data supplied by KARAPATAN indicates that 817 of 819 victims were shot to death, while 2 victims were stabbed to death

4. Section 18(1), Article III, 1987 Constitution

5. Section 8, Article III, in relation to Section 23, Article II, 1987 Constitution

6. Section 18(1), Article III, 1987 Constitution

7. As amended by Presidential Decrees Numbers 885, 1736, 1835 and 1975; revived by Executive Order No. 167 and amended by Executive Order No. 276

8. "An Act Repealing Republic Act Numbered One Thousand Seven Hundred, as Amended, Otherwise Known as the Anti-Subversion Act," 22 September 1992

9. The Catholic Welfare Organization was later reorganized into the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on January 31, 2968

10. Section 3, amending Section 12 of Republic Act 6975, 25 February 1998

11. "An Act Establishing the Philippine National Police under a Reorganized Department of the Interior and Local Government, and for Other Purposes."

12. "An Act Providing for the Reform and Reorganization of the Philippine National Police and for Other Purposes, Amending Certain Provisions of Republic Act Numbered Sixty-Nine Hundred and Seventy-Five Entitled 'An Act Establishing the Philippine National Police under a Reorganized Department of the Interior and Local Government, and for Other Purposes.'"

13. "Directing the Philippine National Police to Undertake Active Support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Internal Security Operations for the Suppression of Insurgency and Other Serious Threats to National Security Amending Certain Provisions of Executive Order No. 110 series of 1999 and for Other Purposes," 14 July 2006

14. Information supplied by Defense Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, in a telephone conversation with Maria Socorro I. Diokno, on 4 January 2007. During the conversation, Ms. Diokno requested copies or portions of the "enhanced" National Internal Security Plan, as well as copies or portions of Oplan Bantay Laya I and II, that are not classified documents. As of the date of this report, no documents were provided Ms. Diokno

15. Department of National Defense, Accomplishment Report January to June 2004, at http://www.dnd.gov.ph/DNDWEBPAGE_files/html/accreport.html

16. 4th Whereas Clause, Executive Order No. 546, "Directing the Philippine National Police to Undertake Active Support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Internal Security Operations for the Suppression of Insurgency and Other Serious Threats to National Security Amending Certain Provisions of Executive Order No. 110 series of 1999 and for Other Purposes," 14 July 2006

17. http://www.dnd.gov.ph/DNDWEBPAGE_files/html/accreport.html

18. Department of National Defense, Accomplishment Report January to June 2004, at http://www.dnd.gov.ph/DNDWEBPAGE_files/html/accreport.html

19. General Headquarters, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Knowing the Enemy power point presentation, 2005

20. "Providing for the Creation of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) for the Coordination of National Security Cases," 17 January 2006

21. Sections 156 to 164, Article VI of the Local Government Code govern residence certificates, now known as Community Tax Certificates

Section 157 mandates that every inhabitant of the country aged 18 or over, who has been regularly employed on a wage or salary basis for at least 30 consecutive working days during the calendar year, or who is engaged in business or in an occupation, or who owns real property with an aggregate assessed value of PhP 1,000 (21 US dollars) or more or who is required by law to file an income tax return must pay community tax. See Section 157, Article VI, Local Government Code.


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