CHR understaffed to handle EJKs?

CHR understaffed to handle EJKs?

Families of victims of extrajudicial killings join the Walk for Life in Manila, Feb. 24, 2018. CBCPNews

By Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz

CBCP News
March 8, 2018

MANILA, Philippines

Some have called it a national crisis, but for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), specifically, the extra-judicial killings are a socio-political nightmare that is overwhelming its staff.

At present, with its 600-man network across the country, the institution has managed to investigate 1,200 EJK cases, not even half of the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s official EJK case count of 3, 987.

The Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, pegs the number at 7,000.

‘No EJKs’

If media statistics, which tag the real tally of EJK cases to be anywhere between 9,000 and 13,000, are closer to the truth, then the CHR-led investigation has touched on less than 10% of the killings.

This is at odds with PNP spokesperson Dionardo Carlos’ message to the media in October 2017 that there are “no EJK cases” in the Philippines.

“Our budget is just Php 600 million, while the Presidential Communications Group’s budget is Php 1.2 billion,” explained Alegre, who noted how the CHR personnel also have other responsibilities like prison visits and the investigation of other human rights cases, aside from EJKs.

According to him, the CHR has 15 regional offices, 131 investigators, 46 lawyers, with only 1 vehicle per regional office.

Even with just 3,987 EJK cases, each CHR investigator will have to handle 30 cases.

“We really can’t make do,” stressed Alegre in Filipino.

Truth-telling

According to him, accounting for the exact number of EJK cases in the country is of primary importance.

“We now have a data base project precisely to count. Truth-telling. How many died?,” Alegre told priests gathered for the National Discernment of Priests on their Prophetic Role, on March 6, Tuesday, at the Maryhill School of Theology (MST) in New Manila, Quezon City.

Aside from the rising body count, Duterte administration’s disregard for human rights is creating an increasingly unsafe political climate and threatening other basic freedoms, he also said.

“We see the attacks on press freedom more and more. And it’s very sophisticated.. It’s not [cases] of printing presses being padlocked,” noted Alegre.

He mentioned the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)’s revoking of the online media outfit Rappler’s registration; the media ad boycott against Philippine Daily Inquirer; the death threats against Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang; and the ouster of Leila De Lima as chairperson of the Senate committee on justice and human rights.

According to Msgr. Manuel G. Gabriel, convenor of the gathering, the event was organized by the National Clergy Discernment Group to help reactivate “’circles of discernment’ – to discern, decide, and act what is necessary in the light of Gospel values the urgent moral task that seriously impacts the future of our nation.”