MANILA - A director of an international human rights watchdog called the claim by the Philippine National Police (PNP) that there are no cases of extra-judicial killings under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte "ridiculous."
In an interview with ABS-CBN News Sunday, Human Rights Watch Geneva director John Fisher also slammed the police for subscribing to a "convenient" definition of extra-judicial killings based on an order from the previous administration.
"That's a ridiculous claim. The number of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines is there. It's a very convenient definition that manages to reduce the number to zero," said Fisher, who visited the Philippines last week to meet with human rights groups.
Administrative Order No. 35 defines EJKs as killings where "the victim was a member of, or affiliated with an organization, to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor, or similar causes; or an advocate of above-named causes; or a media practitioner or person(s) apparently mistaken or identified to be so."
The Human Rights Watch official said the definition of extra-judicial killings is a universal concept and no government can limit its definition to its own preference.
"The definition of extra-judicial killings is not up to the government. It's a matter of international law. It stems from something as basic as right to life which is found in the universal declaration of human rights," he stressed.
He added that a quick Google search would give a more accurate definition of EJKs than what the Philippine government gives: "An extrajudicial killing is the killing of a person by governmental authorities without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process."
According to Fisher, the over 3,800 people killed during police operations, a number based on Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano's Al Jazeera interview, are examples of extra-judicial killings.
"All these cases, these are individuals who have been simply shot as they were going about their business. There's no judicial process... That's why they're called extra-judicial executions because it's without judicial proceedings," he said.
According to official government numbers, a total of 3,811 drug personalities were killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to August 29, 2017. Government data also said there were 6,225 drug-related killings from July 2016 and September 2017.