(Photo credit: Kadamay)
16 September 2016
CHRP Press Statement
STOP EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLINGS. TAKE FORWARD THE PEACE PROCESS.
Edgar Matobato, who claims to be a former member of a death squad run by the current Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte when he was Mayor of Davao City, has alleged to a Philippines Senate hearing, that as well as running a death squad that targeted drug dealers, political opponents and personal enemies, Duterte personally murdered a wounded government criminal investigator. Duterte denies the allegations.
Duterte was elected to the Philippine presidency last May by a landslide propelled largely by his promise to eradicate corruption and of a war on drugs through a deadly crackdown of drug users and gang members. Currently, 3,500 people are estimated to have been killed in the four months since he took power. These deaths are taking place in poor communities, where drugs crime is generated out of the grinding poverty and stark social inequalities which successive governments have shown little concern to resolve.
Extrajudicial killings of street children and drug gang members are not new in the Philippines and are often perpetrated by elements in the police who are themselves involved in running their own drugs gangs. Such killings have always been seen by those in power as a solution which is preferable to following the path of due legal process, or introducing reforms which address the root issues of inequality and poverty
Duterte’s populist style and the sheer scale of deaths currently taking place have finally drawn the world’s attention to extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. But the risk is that he is looked upon as exceptional, “a rogue populist president”.
The reality is that extrajudicial killings have been a core part of the strategy of the Philippines traditional elite for keeping themselves in power ever since the era of ex-President Marcos . For many years, through successive administrations, human rights organisations, in the Philippines and internationally, have tried to draw the world’s attention to extrajudicial killings and disappearances. Previous presidents may not, unlike Duterte, have openly endorsed extrajudicial killings, but they have had no qualms about the military and death squads being unleashed on community activists, journalists, church workers and trade unionists.
CHRP has pointed out recently how British-based mining companies have been implicated in the military and death squads removing community opposition to their mining operations. The murder of activists is continuing in the Duterte presidency. On 3 September, four farmers were killed by a death squad operating for a mayor who wanted to grab their land in Nueva Ecija. In July, a pregnant woman was killed, and four children and two farmers were wounded when a military battalion and a private army opened fire on Lumad indigenous people at a wedding celebration in Bukidnon.
The attention now being given to Duterte’s past is also happening at a time when there seems to be the first genuine possibility for progress in peace talks between the government and the left-wing National Democratic Front of the Philippines for many years, with the prospect of ending a more than five decades long guerrilla war. The first round of talks in Oslo in August had an encouraging start with an agreement on a number of preliminary points. Given the insistence of the rebels on fundamental socio-economic reforms, including genuine land reform and an end to the grip of a small group of wealthy families in power in the country, the resumption of the peace talks has given renewed hope to many people in the Philippines.
It is vital that these peace talks proceed. However, there can be no genuine peace with justice unless the whole culture of impunity for extrajudicial killings and other forms of human rights violations is eradicated. CHRP calls for the following:
- All extrajudicial killings must be stopped immediately.
- All paramilitary groups and private armies must be disarmed and disbanded.
- All those responsible for extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture must be brought to justice.
- Peace talks between the Philippines Government and the National Democratic Front must be supported in order to bring about just economic and social reforms and an end to impunity. ###