Senate bets push for body cams, anti-EJK law to stop killings

MANILA, Philippines – Senate bets pushed for a law requiring cops to wear body cameras, and a law clearly defining and punishing state-sponsored killings to stop the increasing deaths in the government's anti-drug campaign.

The candidates explained their arguments on this in the second installment of "Harapan 2019: The ABS-CBN Senatorial Town Hall Debate" on Sunday, February 24.

Opposition candidates Mar Roxas and Erin Tañada said that if elected, they will support legislation mandating the Philippine National Police (PNP) to clip on cameras on all cops conducting operations.

"Isang malinaw na kilos yan, nariyan ang teknolohiya, murang mura, puwedeng bilihin," Roxas said. (That is a clear action, the technology is there, it's cheap, we can buy that.) 

While Congress allotted budget for the PNP to purchase 37,000 units of body cameras in 2018, there is still no law that will require and strictly enforce the use of the equipment.

The government acknowledges that 5,000 out of the more than 20,000 deaths from the war on drugs are results of the police's own operations.

Anti-EJK law

Human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares, the bet of the Philippine Left, said he will revive efforts to pass a law that would cleary define and punish state-sponsored killings. 

"Dapat may isang batas na nagdedeklara ng extrajudicial killings specifically ang state-sponsored killing ay bawal, iligal at may mabigat na parusa," said Colmenares. (There should be one law that declares that extrajudicial killings, specifically state-sponsored killings, are prohibited, illegal, and coming with severe penalties.)

Tañada agreed with Colmenares, saying: "Sinubukan po namin 'yan nu'ng nakaraang Kongreso pero hindi sinuportahan ng ating mga mambabatas." (We tried that in the past Congress but lawmakers did not support it.) 

A recently signed law on the protection of children in armed conflict has defined extrajudicial killngs or EJKs as "acts and omissions of State actors that constitute violation of the general recognition of the right to life embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UNCRC and similar other human rights treaties to which the Philippines is a State party."

Before this law, there was no Philippine statute that defined EJK, which made it hard for lawyers to make a clear EJK case out of the killings.

Legal expert Ted Te said that because the definition is under a law on children in armed conflict, there can be no certainty if it can apply to drug war killings, until it is tested in a local court.

"But, pending such an interpretation, the mere definition of EJKs in a statute represents a significant step forward in providing justice to many victims of EJKs over the years," Te said.

Ding Generoso, spokesperson of President Rodrigo Duterte's consultative committee, pushed for federalism to fix loopholes in the criminal justice system

"Du'n sa draft federal constitution, maraming bagong probisyon kung saan pagugulungin nang mabilis ang hustisya para ang pagpatay na 'yan ay maiwasan sa lipunan," said Generoso who is running under the Katipunan ng Kamalayang Kayumanggi party. 

(In the draft federal constitution, there are many new provisions which will start a faster justice system so those killings can be avoided.) 

Police discipline

Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, a former soldier, said the government should address the problem through its root cause, which is weeding out bad cops starting from recruitment and althroughout their service.

"Dapat meron may matibay na PNP Internal Affairs Service na hindi lamang nililipat ang scalawags kung hindi matanggal sa serbisyo," said Alejano. (There should be a strong PNP Internal Affairs Service where scalawags are not only transfered but kicked out of service.)

Alejano went on to hit Duterte, saying, "Hanggang nandiyan si President Duterte, hindi matatapos ang patayan sa Pilipinas (As long as President Duterte is still in power, killings will not stop in the Philippines)."

Agnes Escudero, a tribal leader, said there should more spiritual activities for the police.

"Kahit ilang batas pa ang gawin mo, sintensyahan mo pa ng kamatayan, kung ang evil mind ay nasa kanya, talagang makaka-commit siya," Escudero said. (No matter how many laws you pass, even if you punish them with death, if they have an evil mind, they will commit a crime.) 

Senatorial candidate Abner Afuang said he wants Oplan Tokhang, the government's anti-drug campaign, to first go after "evil, corrupt narco politicians in the Upper and Lower House of Congress."Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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