Yesterday, nations across the world, including the Philippines, marked International Human Rights Day. As we celebrated this important day, it is high time that Senator Leila de Lima and Commission on Human Rights chair Chito Gascon invoke Administrative Order (AO) No. 35 that they adopted on April 18, 2013, as 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.
In the said order, the two, among other signatories of the AO, defined extra-legal killings (ELKs) or extra-judicial killings (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.
Moreover, they added 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.
If the two 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.
But if they 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.