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EJKs remain a serious problem in PH — US gov't report

A United States government report said that extra-judicial killings (EJKs) remain a serious problem in the Philippines in 2023 and that there were no significant changes in the country’s human rights situation.

“EJKs, largely by police but also by other security forces, remained a serious problem,” the US Department of State said in its 58-page Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

“In addition, politically motivated killings, including of journalists, were reported during the year,” it added.

The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are submitted annually by the US Department of State to the US Congress.

Despite this, the State Dept. said the number of EJKs in the country decreased in 2023.

"There were no significant changes in the human rights situation in the Philippines during the year, although the number of incidents of arbitrary and extrajudicial killings and of some other abuses by government agents decreased," the report stated.

Citing data from a non-governmental organization, the department stated that there were 209 killings related to anti-drug operations from January to August 2023.

It said the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also investigated 51 new complaints of alleged EJKs or politically motivated killings.

These involved 82 victims and were allegedly committed by six personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP), two members of the military, seven insurgents, four civilians and 33 unidentified individuals.

Meanwhile, the CHR also investigated 15 drug-related EJKs with 18 victims and PNP involvement in eight of the cases.

The State Dept. said other agencies such as the PNP Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) investigated whether the security force killings were justifiable.

Among the EJKs, the report highlighted the case of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and five other individuals who were killed in March, 2023 by unknown individuals. It also cited the six Navotas City police officers who killed 17-year-old Jemboy Baltazar last August.

Meanwhile, it said that other significant human rights issues included reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture or inhumane punishment by and on behalf of government, other physical abuses by nonstate actors, use of child soldiers by terrorists, serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom, and extensive gender-based violence, among others.

“The government investigated some reported human rights abuses, including abuses by its security forces and paramilitary forces. Concerns about police impunity remained, given reports of continued extrajudicial killings by police,” the report said.

“Significant concerns also persisted about impunity for other security forces, and civilian national and local government officials,” it added.

According to the State Dept., "Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces, particularly in the PNP", as reported by local and international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.—RF, GMA Integrated News