CHR lists 344 EJK cases in Calabarzon region
LUCENA CITY — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has counted 344 cases of drug-related extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in Calabarzon, the region closest to Metro Manila, since 2016 when the Duterte administration launched a violent campaign against drugs and crimes.
Records kept by the CHR in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) showed at least 344 suspected pushers and users were victims of EJKs in the region since 2016 until Dec. 15 this year.
Most of the killings were carried out by police in drug war operations, the CHR records showed.
A report from lawyer Rexford Guevarra, CHR Calabarzon director, said Laguna province had the most cases of EJKs at 122; Cavite, 75; Batangas, 56; Quezon, 46 and Rizal, 45.
“EJK encompasses killings by government forces as well as by any other groups or individuals which the government fails to investigate, prosecute and punish when it is in a position to do so,” Guevarra said in a phone interview on Thursday.
CHR data showed that the number of EJK victims in drug-related killings in 2016 was only 32.
In 2017, the number of victims reached 61 then dramatically rose to 251 from January to Dec. 15 this year.
It mirrored the results of what President Rodrigo Duterte said was a campaign against drugs that would be unrelenting and terrifying for those in the drug trade.
Of the 344 cases, the CHR is currently investigating 280. At least 256 of these involved police operations. Dead suspects in 24 of the cases have not been identified, the CHR records showed.
Guevarra said the total number of drug-related killings and suspected summary executions perpetrated by police could be higher than what the CHR data showed.
Police commonly referred to slain suspects as “nanlaban,” or those who fought back and engaged policemen in gunfights.
But most families of victims question the police version of the killings, claiming their loved ones had been summarily executed.
In Lucena City, at least eight drug suspects have been slain in police operations from Nov. 20 to Dec. 19 this year, according to police reports.
The death toll in Lucena’s drug war had already reached 42 since January.
Supt. Reydante Ariza, Lucena City police chief, stood by the reports and the legitimacy of drug operations.
Guevarra said most families of victims were afraid to pursue cases “out of fear for their lives and safety.”
“Some receive threats,” Guevarra said in an earlier phone interview. “Some do not even know where to turn to,” he added.
Supt. Chitadel Gaoiran, spokesperson for the Calabarzon police, earlier declared that if there was any formal complaint against police operations, the regional office was open to any investigation.
Gaoiran, however, insisted that all cases were presumed to be “legitimate police operations.”
The CHR welcomed the help of the Philippine National Police in the Calabarzon region in the investigation.
“We remind them that as state actors, they are duty bound when it comes to the protection and promotion of human rights,” Guevarra said.
He said one of the biggest challenges in the CHR investigation was police refusal to provide official reports of operations.
Guevarra said the CHR records were based only on information provided by walk-in complainants and cases reported by media.
He said the CHR had already reached out to members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to help in the pursuit for truth and justice.
The CHR has also maintained a partnership with civil society organizations and the Church.
According to government data, the drug war has claimed at least 5,000 lives nationwide since the President took office in 2016.
Rights groups, however, said the death toll was more than 20,000.