Duterte: Do NOT establish a Culture of Death in the Philippines!
From Human Rights Watch
For Rodrigo Duterte, the brutal death squads that have claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people during his tenure as mayor of Davao City in the Philippines’ main southern island of Mindanao are not a problem. They’re a political platform.
Duterte publicly admitted his direct links to the Davao death squad during a May 24 live broadcast of his weekly television talk show. “Am I the death squad? True. That is true,” Duterte said on-air while discussing his accomplishments as Davao’s chief executive. He then pledged that if he became president of the Philippines he would execute 100,000 more criminals and dump their bodies in Manila Bay.
Duterte’s comments echoed those he made on May 15, which asserted the summary killing of suspected criminals as a key plank to his approach to public security.
The possibility that the current EJKs will be considered by the International Criminal Court as amounting to a crime against humanity is a liability risk that our President is miscalculating.
Ruben Carranza, director of the New-York-based International Center for Transitional Justice, points out that “[w]hen over 500 civilians have been killed by both police and vigilantes with the clear goal of targeting them in a ‘war against drugs,’ with their impunity explicitly guaranteed by the president, then the elements of EJKs as a ‘crime against humanity of murder’ are already there—(a) widespread or systematic killings, (b) civilians are targeted, and (c) the perpetrators know or intended their conduct to be part of a widespread or systematic attack.”
On Aug. 11, Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque delivered a privilege speech in which he said: “It is clear that the civilian population is being attacked—news reports all around us overwhelmingly establish that hundreds of Filipinos have been killed either directly by governmental forces or with their support or tolerance.”
Roque likewise said: “It is also clear that the President is aware that these acts are ongoing. Even without proof of a directive on his part, he has, in many instances, spoken about the use of violence against drug syndicates.”
Roque cited the decisions of international criminal tribunals which prosecuted political and military officials for crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. These tribunals declared that “it is not necessary to show that [the crimes committed] were the result of the existence of a policy or plan” and that the plan “need not be declared expressly or even stated clearly and precisely. It may be surmised from the occurrence of a series of events.”
The party-list representative cautioned the President to be careful: “While it would be imprudent for me to say with certainty that President Duterte has already committed a crime against humanity, it would be a disservice to this entire nation if I did not warn him to be careful. Neither the Rome Statute nor general international law prescribes a minimum number of victims for an indictment. So long as the [International Criminal Court] believes that the war on drugs is ‘widespread’ and ‘systematic,’ [it is] likely to investigate.”
The President enjoys immunity under Philippine law, but he has no similar immunity for crimes under the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. Carranza says “the presidents of Sudan and Kenya were charged” in the court even during their incumbency. And there is no expiration of liability for ICC crimes, so he can be charged even long after he leaves Malacañang.
Crimes against humanity are certain acts that are deliberately committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population or an identifiable part of a population. The first prosecution for crimes against humanity took place at the Nuremberg Trials. Crimes against humanity have since been prosecuted by other international courts - such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court, as well as in domestic prosecutions. The law of crimes against humanity has primarily developed through the evolution of customary international law. Crimes against humanity are not codified in an international convention, although there is currently an international effort to establish such a treaty, led by the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative.
Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity can be committed during peace or war. They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. Murder, massacres, dehumanization, extermination, human experimentation, extrajudicial punishments, death squads, forced disappearances, military use of children, kidnappings, unjust imprisonment, slavery, cannibalism, torture, rape, and political or racial repression may reach the threshold of crimes against humanity if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice. From Wikipedia
"Violence is a crime against humanity, for it destroys the very fabric of society. "
Pope John Paul IIFrom America Magazine
Deploring a campaign of extrajudicial killings that by some local media accounts has now claimed more than 800 lives, the president of the Philippines bishops’ conference issued a direct challenge to President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters in his Sunday homily on Aug. 7. “Will you kill me again and again on the social media for saying this?” asked Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan.
“At this point. I do not care. I am ready to die.… A part of me has died a hundred times in every killing I have seen these past weeks. What is another death for me?… Barbarism will not have the last laugh. Reason will prevail. Humanity will win in the end.”
Describing himself in “utter disbelief” before the continuing police and vigilante violence against people suspected of drug peddling and other crimes, as well as the president’s professed indifference to human rights concerns, the archbishop wrote: “Both the guilty and the innocent are humans. The humanity in me bleeds each time a fellow human is killed. The humanity in me cries each time I see a parent and a child grieve over loved ones killed on the sidewalk or thrown in grassy areas hogtied or masked with tape. The humanity in me grieves for fellow humans who do not mind killing criminals in the belief that their murders will lessen evil in the world. For the killer and the killed I grieve. We become less human when we kill our brethren. Every human is my brother. Every human is my sister. Everything and everyone around me is brother and sister for me.”
Archbishop Villegas’s homily was read from the pulpit throughout his diocese on Aug. 7, and it was published on the diocesan website. He asked his parishioners: "From a generation of drug addicts shall we become a generation of street murderers? Will the do-it-yourself justice system assure us of a safer and better future?"
While he acknowledged the need for greater efforts against drug trafficking and other drug-related crimes, on Aug. 3 Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of the diocese of Butuan in Agusan del Norte also emphasized the need for due process. “We are living in a democracy, [the drug war] has to follow judicial process,” he said.
According to local media, Teodoro Bacani Jr., bishop emeritus of Novaliches, also warned police: “The end does not justify the means,” urging that human rights and proper judicial procedures be respected.
In a testimony to how quickly the human rights situation has deteriorated in the Philippines since Duterte came to power, in recent weeks the nation’s Catholic bishops’ conference has begun an anti-violence program simply called “Do Not Kill.” The campaign seeks to organize family members of the victims of extrajudicial executions and continues an appeal, first issued in June, to the nation’s police not to participate in or tolerate extrajudicial killings of drug dealers, traffickers and other criminal suspects.
An implied shoot-to-kill policy on drug dealers and traffickers had propelled the presidential run of President Rodrigo Duterte. As mayor of Davao City, when he was known as “The Punisher,” Duterte had similarly tolerated and even encouraged the summary executions of as many as 1,000 people suspected of committing drug crimes. He is believed to be personally linked with one vigilante group, the Davao Death Squad.
Duterte is not on good terms with the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines and so far has shown little concern that his tough-on-crime posture will prove too much for crime-weary Filipinos. He has similarly proved impervious to international criticism so far. On Aug. 8, in fact, he announced the broadening of his anti-drug trafficking crusade, releasing a list government officials, judges, members of Congress and military officers he accuses of having links to the illegal drug trade. His televised address came just hours after he vowed to maintain his "shoot to kill" order against drug dealers.
In his address Duterte declared that the officials he accused would have their day in court, but added while reading the list that "my mouth has no due process.” As mayor of Davao City, Duterte had similarly read out the names of drug suspects to local media; many of those he named were soon discovered slain.
Since his election in May, the Philippines Inquirer has kept a "Kill List" tracking deaths related to the anti-drug crime campaign around the country. It reports 611 deaths so far. According to the Inquirer, “August 3 is now the deadliest day since President Duterte took office, with 30 dead as of the list’s 11th update.” The Philippine National Police report that in July 565,806 drug suspects voluntarily surrendered to the police from all over the country.
In June the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines issued an official appeal to police, noting in a statement signed by conference president Archbishop Villegas, “We are disturbed by an increasing number of reports that suspected drug-peddlers, pushers and others about whom reports of criminal activity have been received, have been shot, supposedly because they resist arrest.” In their statement, “A Pastoral Appeal to Our Law Enforcers,” the bishops reminded police that killing a suspect is not “morally justifiable,” even if he tries to escape. The bishops issued an “appeal to humanity” in dealing with criminals and drug dealers.
"One can shoot to kill solely on the ground of legitimate self-defense or the defense of others,” the statement reads. The bishops also deplored the practice of receiving "reward money to kill another" and reiterated that it “is the moral duty of every Catholic, every Christian, in fact, to report all forms of vigilantism of which they have personal knowledge” and “to keep away from any participation and any form of cooperation with vigilantes and vigilante movements.”.
A pastoral statement issued by the Salesians last week worried that the church’s “call to respect life has apparently been left unheeded in our country. There have been extra-judicial killings of hundreds of suspected drug pushers and other people allegedly connected to illegal drug trafficking.”
But the Salesians nonetheless described themselves as “alarmed” by “the recent wave of extrajudicial killings that have taken place at the hands of police officers, and especially of vigilantes roaming our streets unchecked and unapprehended.”
They write, “We believe that any attitude and course of action that disregards the basic principles of modern jurisprudence that any person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that justice has to be rendered by following due process, has to be avoided.
“We believe, likewise, that the disregard of such principles, even in the pursuance of a praiseworthy aim…may inevitably lead to serious and irreparable injustices such as the killing of innocent people, and even simple drug users who are, actually, the direct victims of the drug traffickers/pushers.”