By Roy C. Mabasa
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque hits Senator Leila De Lima and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Chito Gascon for their so-called “hypocrisies” in criticizing the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
In a statement issued on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day celebration, Roque instead blamed De Lima and Gascon for their sudden “about-face” in applying the legal definition of extra-legal killing (ELK) or extrajudicial killing (EJK).
Roque explained that Administrative Order 35, which the two adopted on April 18, 2013 during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III, defines ELKs or EJKs as killings wherein the victim was a member of, or affiliated with an organization, to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor, or similar causes; or an advocate of these causes; or a media practitioner; or person(s) apparently mistaken or identified to be so.
The victim was targeted and killed because of the actual or perceived membership, advocacy, or profession. The person/s responsible for the killing is a state agent or non-state agent; and the method and circumstances of attack reveal a deliberate intent to kill.
At that time, Roque said both De Lima and Gascon were members of the Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons in their capacity as Secretary of Justice and Undersecretary for Political Affairs of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs (OPAPA), respectively.
It was also stated that for purposes of the focused mandate of AO No. 35, killings related to common criminals and/or the perpetration of their crimes shall be addressed by other appropriate, mechanisms within the justice system.
“How is it now that when drug pushers or users die, Senator De Lima and Chairman Gascon insist that these are EJKs? Their sudden about-face is baffling given that these drug pushers and users are not members or affiliated with any political, environmental, agrarian, or labor organization. These drug pushers or users are likewise not journalists,” Roque said.
De Lima and Gascon are two of the fiercest critics of the Duterte administration’s alleged human rights violations, specifically those related to the war on drugs where more than 3,000 people were already killed.
Roque further argued that if the lady senator and the CHR chief believed then that the AO they adopted was correct and in accordance with the law, “they should be the first to defend the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs because the AO No. 35 signed by former President Benigno Aquino III is correct.”
He continued that if the two officials believe today that the reported deaths in the war on drugs are EJKs, “they should also admit to the nation and to the world that what they did during the Aquino administration was wrong and that Aquino only signed AO No. 35 so that his administration would not be blamed for the deaths of drug pushers and users during his presidency.”
“It is high time that the hypocrisies of Senator De Lima and Chairman Gascon are exposed in favor of the truth. The Filipino people deserve no less,” Roque said.
On the eve of the International Human Rights Day, De Lima issued a statement inside her cell at Camp Crame in Quezon City, urging intergovernmental bodies to condemn and put a stop to the EJKs happening under Duterte.
De Lima, who served as CHR chair during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said governments and inter-government bodies “appear to be either ineffective, inadequate, or simple passive” in addressing human rights violations in various countries around the world, including the Philippines.
Tags: administration, Chito Gascon, Commission on Human Rights, Duterte administration, EJK, extra judicial killings, International Human Rights Day, Leila de Lima, President Benigno Aquino III, Senator de Lima, Senator Leila De Lima