Extrajudicial killing conviction rate dim: Report

By Maria Aleta Nieva Nishimori, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Sep 25 2010 03:41 PM | Updated as of Sep 25 2010 11:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Majority of extrajudicial cases in the country remain unsolved with only a 1.05% successful conviction rate during the period 2001-2010, a recent study revealed.

“EJK [Extrajudicial Killing] is rampant in the Philippines. It was most relevant in the time of GMA [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo],” Atty. Al Parreño said.

Parreño conducted a study on the legal audit of cases of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. In the study, there were only 4 successful convictions out of the 305 incidents reported during the 10-year period.

“Based on our research, there are a total of 305 incidents of extrajudicial killings with 390 victims in this country from 2001-2010. Only a total of 161 cases or 56% of the incidents have been filed with the prosecutor,” Parreño’s report stated.

Parreño said most of the victims are activist leaders and members or those associated with the left while the accused in these incidents often involve state actors.

"Most victims are from the left and the accused are from the military. A lot of cases remain unsolved. It’s a growing trend," said Parreño.

Of the 390 victims, some were officers and members of activist groups; others were journalists and elected government officials, farmers, rebels, lawyers, public officers, officers or members of religious groups, and judges.

On the other hand, Parreño's study revealed that state actors were often involved in the killings. Rebels, he said, also comprised 12% of the suspects in the killings.

"State actors are involved because 19% belong to the military; 9% to the police and 1% to the CAFGU (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit)," said Parreño.

However, he noted that majority of the cases have not been successfully prosecuted because most of the suspects (57%) are still unidentified.

EJK highest in Pampanga

The study also showed that extrajudicial killings were most rampant in the province of Pampanga with 37 cases and 41 victims.

"Basically, it’s in Pampanga, Northern Samar and Negros Occidental. The peak happened in 2005 and 2006," he said.

Of the total 37 cases, majority are still unsolved because the suspects in the killings are unidentified or the cases have been dismissed, he said.

Data he gathered also showed that extrajudicial killings peaked in 2005-2006, under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. A total of 264 out of the 305 recorded cases happened during Arroyo's administration.

The killings continued even with the new leadership of President Benigno Aquino III. "There's still extrajudicial killings present in the Aquino administration," said Parreño, citing 8 cases recorded after Aquino assumed office.

Dismissed cases

The audit, which was done in partnership with the Asia Foundation, said there were only 169 of the 305 cases that reached the prosecutorial level.

"The number one reason for the dismissal of cases is insufficiency of evidence. This might take 2 forms--the physical evidence or it might take the form of witnesses," he said.

In his study, 32% of the cases remain unsolved. "When we say that, that's actually even before it goes through investigation. Cold cases." He explained that this is mainly due to the fact that the suspects are still unidentified.

He cited the case of Noy Capulong, a member of Bayan Muna, who was killed in 2006.

"The sad part about this is that while this case happened way back in 2006, this was actually dismissed even at the prosecutorial level, even before it reached the judge. The reason for the dismissal was that there was insufficiency of evidence," he explained.

Long process

The criminal process for an extrajudicial case takes too long. Parreño said available records revealed that it would take 5 years, 2 months and 11 days for cases to undergo the criminal process.

He said the length of prosecution is still ongoing despite the Supreme Court's issuance of an administrative order that designates special courts to hear, try and decide cases involving extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

6 pillars of success

Parreño laid down 6 recommendations which are "essential for a holistic solution to this problem."

"As much as possible, I recommend institutional remedies--things that involve institutions within the government--the CHR (Commission on Human Rights), the DOJ (Department of Justice), the PNP (Philippine National Police). To perpetuate any program that we have in solving this, my recommendation involves around institutions that will actually help solve this on a permanent level," he said.

His recommendations include an independent watchdog, an aggressive government, public awareness, availability of evidence, a dedicated prosecutor, and an impartial tribunal.
“How to solve it? We need to empower the CHR to be able to monitor this. We need to implement an aggressive government policy to go against it. Public awareness and participation. Develop measures to make evidence available; ensure a dedicated and proactive prosecution and ensure an impartial tribunal,” said Parreño.

Lastly, he said the paradigm in extrajudicial killings should not be about the military and activists.

“The division should never be left and right. It should always be about the human right and what's human wrong,” he said.