MANILA — Several government agencies signed a pact Wednesday to "institutionalize" sharing of information and data related to political killings amid recent reports of activists slayed by alleged vigilantes.
The Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture, and Other Grave Violations (IAC), and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) entered into an agreement to facilitate data sharing for a "more effective resolution" of cases of political killings.
The IAC, chaired by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, was created in 2012 through Administrative Order No. 35 to serve as an "institutional machinery" dedicated to the resolution of unsolved cases of political violence in the form of extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and security of persons.
Before the agreement signed Wednesday, the CHR had only participated as observers and resource persons.
But the CHR believes access to witnesses will help advance investigations as it concurrently probes cases also under AO 35.
"For us in CHR, this will not only help in our investigation but add value in final investigation report as this will eventually result to its successful..., and not remain in our archives," CHR Commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento said during the signing.
Due to risks brought about by COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held in separate places and was shown only on the CHR’s Facebook page.
With the data sharing agreement, the agencies hope there will be clearer channels of communication between the CHR and the IAC to improve case build-up, evidence gathering, prosecution and subsequent resolution of human rights violations.
"We commit not only to protect the data that you will share with us. More importantly, we undertake to use them well, against those who undermine and violate the rights inherent in us humans," said DOJ Undersecretary Markk Perete.
Since 2007, the United Nations (UN) has raised concerns over the vilification, arbitrary detention, harassment, enforced disappearances and killings of rights defenders in the country. The Officer of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was able to verify more 208 defenders killed between January 2015 and December 2019.
A recent UN human rights report found that a heavy-handed focus on security threats and illegal drugs have led to serious human rights violations in the Philippines.
On Aug, 10, activist Randell Echanis, was found dead with multiple stab wounds from a spiked weapon, according to a forensic pathologist. A week later, human rights defender Zara Alvarez was gunned down in Bacolod City.
— Reports from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News