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7,080 ‘EJKs’ and so much outrage; only three cases with details?

To journalists and NGOs: Get the who, where, what, how!
THERE have been an alleged 7,080 extra-judicial killings (EJKs) committed under President Duterte’s administration, and even purportedly under his direction.

What is astonishing is this. The Liberal Party, the Aquinos and Cojuangcos, Senator Leila de Lima, the CBCP, US billionaire Loida Nicolas, Vice President Leni Robredo—all of which have made this their biggest issue against Duterte—as well as NGOs such as the Human Rights Watch, the Free Legal Assistance Group, and the failed-institution PCIJ have huge resources amounting to hundreds of millions of pesos, which they can even combine.

Yet they can’t even present to us a single case of such EJKs—the names of the police killers, who they received orders from, the names of those killed, where the killing took place, that is, the usual, the normal information one needs to prove a fact.

Details on only three EJKs have been uncovered so far (listed below) but no thanks to these people and groups.

Instead, they have uncovered details on alleged EJKs that occurred in the late 1980s, more than 28 years ago in Davao City—virtually impossible to prove by this time—of course with the purported mastermind being the mayor then, Duterte.

DRAMATIC PHOTO IN HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT: Pulitzer Prize-worthy photo? Notice the drizzling rain? The camera’s filter tint? But what’s the name of the policeman, of those who were involved in the operation?

Senator Antonio Trillanes III, the Philippine political world’s character assassin par excellence (remember his project vs. Jojo Binay?), FLAG, and even the PCIJ have devoted their resources to exposing EJKs in Davao City 28 years ago, instead of those that occurred just within the past three months. (An easier investigation would be the Hacienda Luisita massacre in November 2014, in which seven striking workers were killed.)

Not surprising
That is of course not surprising, if one concludes that these groups aren’t really champions of justice, but merely want to use the issue to take down Duterte as soon as possible.

A recent article in a US magazine even glorified “night-shift” reporters in police beats. “A lot of the world learned about the carnage…is due largely to the night-shift reporters,” the article said.

But why can’t these police reporters provide us with the who-why-where-what-how of EJKs they’ve photographed, which after all are the info basic journalism courses say they should get?

A photographer in that article was quoted:

“Things picked up the first week of July. By the second week, we were going to many raids, ‘buy-bust’ operations. The police would always tell us the alleged drug dealer was dealing with undercover policemen and he shot it out. We were getting maybe three deaths a night … and then mid-July it intensified. It became 12 a night, sometimes more.

“I did a tally every night: the ‘legitimate’ ones, which we call the buy-bust, the drug raids [by the police]. And then you have the deaths that’s under investigation, the ones done supposedly by the death squads, these are the persons whose hands and feet were bound, [their]heads wrapped in packing tape. I don’t have my personal list now. When I hit 2,000, I stopped counting.”

He witnessed 2,000 operations, and let’s assume a third of that resulted in EJKs by police, in which the they claimed that the suspects fought back, and they had to shoot to kill, so this would be about 600 killings.

Yet the photographer didn’t bother to get details on these EJKs, info that could be used to file charges against the killers? Among such info: Exactly who were the policemen involved, who their team leader was, who was the overall commander of what police precinct? What are the names of those killed, what kind of weapons they supposed to have tried to fire, and where the alleged EJK killing occurred. He just wanted his photograph, composed with the best angle and even using filters to make it more dramatic.

Or is it the fault of the editors of these photographers, who didn’t bug them to get details on each EJK?

Not their jobs
But of course, photographers could say that that is not their job, which is just to take photos. Even if people are getting killed in front of their eyes by law enforcers?

Or maybe it is still another reflection of the massive failure of the Philippine press, whose members have been aping their broadcast colleagues who pursue only images—as sensational as possible—rather than facts.

At the very least, if these journalists were doing their jobs, maybe we can shame the police who would as a consequence hesitate undertaking more EJKs. For instance, we could have a tally that “Tondo Police Precinct No. XX under precinct commander so-and-so and his Police Officers A, B, and C have killed 20 alleged drug addicts in buy-bust operations in January. ”

What we have now are anonymous police killers — even if they can be identified — with the face of Duterte looming. Or is this precisely the propaganda strategy?

The recent report by the US Human Rights Watch—sensationally titled “License to Kill”— boasted that it investigated 24 incidents, resulting in 32 deaths involving Philippine National Police personnel between October 2016 and January 2017. The report gave the names of the victims and details on how they were killed.

But the report doesn’t give the names of the policemen involved and their units which means that even if the government decides to prosecute these cases, the Human Rights Watch report would be useless.

If that NGO were really concerned about the plight of Filipinos, it would have submitted to the justice department or the Ombudsman’s Military and Other Law Enforcement Office their case studies, complete with the names of the killer-policemen.

Even during martial law, when the press was closed down, the religious NGO “Task Force Detainees” meticulously compiled thousands of cases of arrests and killings, with the names of the victims, and sometimes the names of the military units involved. (Never mind if an Amnesty International report would later on conclude that 85 percent of the cases involved those either with the NPA or with communist party fronts.)

Why can’t these people and groups shouting to high heavens against EJKs with all their resources do similar investigative work in this day and age when we have the freest media, so that they can help the poor people get justice for their loved ones?

If they can’t do it themselves, they can fund some sort of “Task Force EJKs” staffed with experienced journalists and lawyers to investigate each and every EJK and file cases in court.

That would be a disincentive to killer-cops, who would worry that their higher-ups could very well decide to abandon them if there are cases filed against them.

Why haven’t they done this obvious thing to be done, if they were really against EJKs? In a word, hypocrisy.

They really don’t care about stopping EJKs, but are just using this issue to demonize this President, or in the case of some reporters, to portray themselves as excellent investigative journalists or great news photographers with the Pulitzer in sight.

For instance, the PCIJ has been devoting resources on the EJK allegations of a police sergeant Arthur Lascañas against Duterte when he was Davao city mayor, rather than investigating just one recent case of an EJK. But of course the latter requires tedious investigative work, and hardly sensational.

The only three cases of EJKs—one didn’t succeed—on which we have details, and which appear to be moving through the legal system are as follows:

The killing of Albuera mayor and suspected drug lord Rolando Espinosa last November in his prison cell in Baybay City, by a team of the Philippine National Police’s Region 8 Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, allegedly as he shot at the police who were serving a search warrant on him in his jail cell.

The kidnapping and attempted murder in February in Calaca, Batangas of Amante Valdos, a suspected drug suspect, by Police Officer 3 Abmar Mohammed.

The attempted murder in August last year of Efren Morillo, when he refused to confess he was a drug dealer, allegedly by Senior Police Inspector Emil Garcia, PO3 Allan Formilliza, PO1 James Aggarao, and PO1 Melchor Navisaga, all of Quezon City Police Station No. 6 in Batasan Hills.

Those people and groups protesting to high heavens about EJKs under Duterte had nothing to do in bringing these cases to light. The Espinosa killing was uncovered by a Senate committee, which prompted the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate it and file charges. The second case was pursued by the suspected cop-killer’s colleagues themselves in the Las Piñas police force. The third was investigated by the Ombudsman’s Military and Other Law Enforcement Office.