Hontiveros, Alan Cayetano clash over issues of EJKs, human rights violations
MANILA, Philippines — Senators Risa Hontiveros and Alan Peter Cayetano clashed on Wednesday over the issue of human rights violations in the Philippines.
Cayetano took the opening punch when the Commission on Appointments’ foreign affairs panel discussed extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and human rights violations under the Duterte administration. The panel was debating Antonio Manuel Lagdameo’s nomination to be the permanent representative of the Philippines to the United Nations.
He claimed that during the time of President Benigno Aquino III, particularly during the stint of former Senator Leila de Lima as Justice Secretary, the Philippine government “changed the definition” of EJKs, narrowing its meaning to “lower the count of cases.”
“During President Aquino’s time, there will 11,000 to 16,000 extrajudicial killings every year. That’s on the record. But ang ginawa po ng former [Justice] Secretary former Senator de Lima, chinange nila ‘yung definition ng extrajudicial killings,” Cayetano said.
(But what De Lima did was to change the definition of EJKs)
“Kapag pinatay at walang kinalaman sa ideology or kung kaya ay siya’y religious or union, hindi na nila cinoconsider na extrajudicial kaya bumaba ‘yung count ng extrajudicial killings during the Aquino time,” he said.
(When someone is killed but it is not related to ideology, religion, or union, they don’t consider it extrajudicial; that’s why the EJK count was lower during the Aquino time.)
He added that during the time of former President Rodrigo Duterte, the definition of EJKs was “reinstated,” and as a result, the number of cases ballooned.
“Pagdating ng Duterte time, binalik nila ‘yung definition, na basta’t napatay na hindi judicial, eh wala naman tayong death penalty noon, and as long as it’s not because of natural causes, then automatically extrajudicial killing na siya, kaya lumobo,” Cayetano said.
(During the time of Duterte, they reinstated the definition that when someone is killed that is not judicial — when we did not have the death penalty here, and as long as it’s not because of natural causes — it’s automatically an EJK, so cases ballooned.)
He further claimed that human rights advocates who criticize Duterte’s war against illegal drugs are not showing the “whole picture,” especially the kill count of drug lords, drug dealers, and the like.
“It is our responsibility as a people, pati sa media, na maging responsible. Ang problema, may mga grupo sa Pilipinas, wineweaponize ang human rights at ginagamit ito para siraan yung bansa,” the senator said.
(It is our responsibility to be responsible. The problem is there are groups in the Philippines who weaponize human rights and use it to defame the country.)
“We have to show them the whole picture,” he added.
Cayetano’s remarks did not sit well with opposition senator Hontiveros, saying it is not fair to accuse her former colleague in the opposition, former senator De Lima of manipulating the numbers, especially when she is not there at the meeting to defend herself.
“It is not fair to accuse a person, who is not only absent from this hearing but in jail the past half decade on charges na sa kabila ng tuloy-tuloy na pag-recant ng mga hindi umanong testigo laban sa kanya, is being held unjustly, para akusahan siya na minamasahe niya ang definition of terms o ang mga bilang,” Hontiveros said.
(It is unfair to accuse someone who is unjustly in jail in the past half-decade despite the recantation of some of the witnesses against her, of redefining terms or manipulating numbers.)
In response, Cayetano said that he is not accusing as it is a “fact” that changing the EJK definition was an “official act” and is on the record with the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
“Mayroon talagang change of definition. That’s a fact. It’s in the records of the State. I’m just stating a fact, I’m not accusing anyone about anything. There’s no unfairness here,” he said.
(There is really a change in definition.)
Hontiveros acknowledged Lagdameo’s commitment to present the issue of human rights violations in the country at the global level and De Lima’s track record.
“People may averse certain facts, others may correct them. The human rights community knows what is what,” she said.