by PhilRights Staff
Welcome to HR Insights, a weekly roundup of human rights news in the Philippines. This week…
Hundreds Killed by Riding-in-Tandem
Rappler released a series of reports on the prevalence of killings via riding-in-tandem. Rappler reports that the PNP began recording statistics related to riding-in-tandem last October 11, 2017 and a total of 880 have been killed and 47 injured between then and May 21, 2018. There were a total of 1,071 suspects of which 1,008 suspects or 94% remain at large. The PNP further classified 812 victims of fatal shootings as murder and another 68 deaths as homicide pending further investigation. Rappler estimates that four people are killed a day due to riding-in-tandem. It can be recalled that the activist priest Father Mark Ventura was also a victim of murder by riding-in-tandem.
A follow-up report has PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde clarifying that the rate of killings by riding-in-tandem is actually lower than last October 2017. This was followed by another piece that analyzed how the Davao region and Metro Manila were the worst at solving riding-in-tandem crimes.
The high incidence of riding-in-tandem killings underscores the prevalence of impunity in the Philippines and also underscores how tactics possibly inspired by the Davao Death Squad have been used in murders nation-wide.
Duterte Warns of “Radical Changes” in the Coming Days
President Duterte floated the idea of a de facto martial law over the Philippines through a “declaration of national emergency” and told an audience to expect “radical changes,” according to a Philippine Star report.
The president was quoted by Davao Today saying that “there’s no difference between Martial Law and a declaration of national emergency.” Davao Today added that Duterte cited the high number of crimes as the reason he floats a “national emergency” as a solution. He also warned human rights activists to “behave.” As both Davao Today and PhilStar noted, Duterte was able to declare a state of national emergency after the 2016 bombing in a Davao market and this remains unchallenged and requires no congressional approval, unlike Martial Law.
Updates on “Drug War” Deaths and Martial Law Enforced Disappearances
The Manila Bulletin reports that two drug suspects were killed in a gun battle with police in Caloocan. It can be recalled that Caloocan police was also the police department that extra-judicially killed Kian delos Santos.
Speaking of Kian, the PNP promoted senior officers who were supervising the units implicated in the boy’s murder, as reported by PhilStar. These promotions were condemned by the Human Rights Watch, calling them an affront to victims.
A report by the Philippine Star (https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/06/09/1823008/duterte-eyes-arming-barangay-captains-vs-crime) quotes President Duterte thinking aloud about arming barangay captains against drugs and criminality. Such arming of civilians has already resulted in abuses by the CHDF under Marcos and by the CAFGU in the post-Marcos period. Furthering militia programs will only intensify abuses done by government agents or their allies.
Meanwhile, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances called on the president to stop extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, as reported by ABS-CBN. The group reported that they have recorded 535 incidents of human rights violations in Duterte’s two years of governance, with 385 occurring in Mindanao under martial law.
Two Anti-Terror Bills Prone to Human Rights Abuses
Pangasinan Representative Amado Espino Jr. introduced two bills seeking to amend the Human Security Act of 2007 last week, according to a Manila Bulletin report. The two measures, House Bill 7141 or “An Act to Secure the State and Protect our People from Terrorism” (Read the bill here) and House Bill 5707, includes provisions that add the death penalty as punishment, which was already formally outlawed by a Philippine treaty obligation.
Oposition lawmakers raised alarm over the two bills, with the Manila Bulletin quoting ACT partylist representative Antonio Tinio as saying that that the two proposed bills will weaken safeguards against abuse of human rights and civil liberties. Other partylist groups such as Anakpawis also cautioned against the bill, calling for laws that stop extrajudicial killings instead.
Says Tinio, “The bills are being fast-tracked as part of the priority legislative agenda of President Duterte.”
MUST READ: Global Peace Index Ranks PH 2nd Least Peaceful Country in Asia-Pacific
The Global Peace Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace named the Philippines as the second least peaceful country in the Asia-Pacific, with a global rank of 138th out of 163 countries.
The Philippines’ lowest marks are in the indicators for perceptions of criminality, homicide, access to weapons, intensity of internal conflict, and violent crime. These indicators form part of a 23-set indicator from quantitative and qualitative data sets of various reputable sources.
The GPI presents “the most comprehensive data-driven analysis to-date on trends in peace, its economic value, and how to develop peaceful societies.” Globally, it notes that the level of peace has deteriorated by 0.27% in the last year.