Congress takes cue from PNP, replaces ‘extra-judicial killings’ with ‘deaths under investigation’

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PNP chief Superindent Noel lazarus vargas (photo: www.dalymail.co.uk)

By Daniel Llanto| FilAm Star Correspondent

The House of Representatives’ committee on public order and safety on Monday decided to drop the use of the phrase “extra-judicial killing” in all its sessions and will instead use the term “death under investigation.” They actually took their cue from the Philippine National Police, which never used the phrase that suggests rub-outs and vigilantism.

The issue on “extra-judicial killing” was first raised at the House by Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo who said the highlight of the PNP crime index now is on the campaign against drugs.

“The most controversial feature of that campaign is the so-called extra-judicial killings or summary execution. May we ask what is the stand of the PNP on this? Does it condone extra-judicial killings?” asked Castelo.

The motion to bar the use of “extra-judicial killing” on the floor or reports officially raised by Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia who believed it was inappropriate since there is no capital punishment or death penalty in the country. It was promptly approved and carried by the committee chaired by Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop, a retired general.

PNP Director for Plans Lazarus Vargas, PNP Director for Plans, confirmed that the PNP never used the term “extra-judicial killing” with all its harsh connotations. “We use the term death under investigation because as you’ve earlier said, there is no such thing as extra-judicial killing. We did not define it. It is used by organizations outside the PNP. It did not come from us,” said Vargas.

For this reason, the measure is expected to be adopted in the Senate which is currently in the throes of a political infighting spawned by an investigation into the drug-related killings spearheaded by Sen. Leila de Lima. Duterte allies in the Senate led by Alan Peter Cayetano worked to stymie the hearings and had De Lima replaced by Sen. Richard Gordon, a non-lawyer, as chair of the committee on justice.

Police Chief Supt. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan, Acting Director of the Directorate for Operations, said there are 1,571 deaths under investigation. He said these are not all drug-related cases. “There are still cases that we are still identifying,” he said.

Cascolan said one of the things the PNP does is to investigate immediately all kinds of killings. “We do not tolerate any kind of illegal police operations,” Cascolan said.

Deputy Speaker Garcia prefaced her motion with a lengthy discourse: “I am really curious about the definition of extra-judicial killing because extra-judicial would mean outside of the parameters of a judicial killing. But do we have such a thing as judicial killing in the Philippines? As far as I know, the last law that was passed that imposed the death penalty by lethal injection was Republic Act 8177. But this was repealed by RA 9346. And therefore right now, we don’t have the death penalty in the Philippines. How could we have such a thing as a judicial killing? And yet it is now so commonly used, that even in the Senate, there was an investigation conducted by the Committee on Justice as regards extra-judicial killing.”

Citing a Wikipedia definition, Garcia said “extra-judicial killing” is “the killing, mainly politically motivated, of a person by governmental authorities or dominant political groups without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process.”

“So there is the condition of the possibility of a judicial proceeding or legal process. This definition may apply to the 10 top countries that still have capital punishment. So such a judicial proceeding or process is possible, the condition is possible. But here in the Philippines, there is no such possibility because we do not have the death penalty,” Garcia explained.

Garcia then moved that as far as all other investigations or reports that may be taken up by the committee, the panel shall not recognize the term “extra-judicial killings,” but will rather use “death under investigation.”

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