MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Wednesday questioned the move of a rights advocacy group to take 47 documented cases of political killings to a United Nations (UN) rights office, saying that local judicial and domestic institutions were more than adequate to judge the matter.
In a statement, Ernesto Abella, the presidential spokesperson, denied that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte had a hand in these killings, saying it was not the policy of the government to violate the human rights of its citizens.
“We…find Karapatan’s move rather questionable, considering that our own justice system and domestic institutions are more than adequate to judge the matter,” Abella said.
On Tuesday, Karapatan said that it submitted on April 10 the case files of 47 victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines under the Duterte administration to Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.
According to Karapatan, the victims of these political killings were peasants, indigenous peoples and workers.
"Many faced harassment and vilification by the military because of their advocacy and actions to defend people’s rights and are thus considered as human rights defenders,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay in her letter to Callamard.
The group said the killings, which transpired from July 2016 to March 31, 2017, were all in the context of the counterinsurgency programs implemented from one government to another.
“From Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan and to the current Oplan Kapayapaan of Duterte, these counter-insurgency programs have victimized thousands of Filipinos, including struggling communities, tagged as “enemies of the State,” Palabay said.
Abella also reiterated the position of the chief executive on any UN investigation. He said that the government would allow it for as long as the UN would abide by some conditions set by the president.
“The Philippines is a sovereign and democratic state. President Duterte has been open to any investigation but he has also set conditions for any international body to come in and interfere with its domestic affairs,” the spokesperson said.
Abella said attributing these killings to the government was a serious allegation and contradicted Duterte’s stand that disputes should be settled peacefully.
He also emphasized that the government was focused on its goal of achieving peace for the Philippines despite moves by some quarters which did not want peace negotiations to succeed.
“Though interested elements from various groups may not want the peace negotiations to succeed, the Duterte administration is singular in achieving the goal of peace that will ultimately serve the entire Filipino nation,” he said.
“Despite the initial setbacks, the (government) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines continue to pursue peace and seek solutions to the root problems of the age-old armed conflict,” he said.