THE suspension of the judicial imposition of the death penalty has denominated all illegal killings as extrajudicial in character. Thus, making the imposable penalty for those persons charged and subsequently convicted of heinous crimes no higher than imprisonment. With the exception of proven claim of self-defense and other exempting circumstances, such imposable penalty applies to all persons upon findings of guilt beyond reasonable doubt by the Court of Justice.
Anyway, the constitutional reprieve on death penalty is the Filipino people’s re-affirmation over the universal recognition on the sanctity of human life desecrated by violence and assassination commonly attributed to authoritarian regime, self-styled revolutionary, criminal syndicates and in recent times to terrorism. Indeed, our people’s commitment to promote and secure human life is manifested in the government’s current unrelenting law enforcement operations, precisely, to protect the citizenry against lawlessness and all forms of abuse, particularly on the debilitating effects of prohibited drugs. Moreover, still fresh in memory is the unwavering determination of the Filipinos, sustained by the gallantry of their soldiers, in rejecting and vanquishing terrorist rule in defense of freedom and peaceful social order inherent in human existence. This is not to mention the government’s health related, educational, livelihood, food production and infrastructural program designed to uplift the citizen’s standard of living, especially the poor.
Interestingly, since the effectivity of the 1987 Constitution, it is upon the incumbency of the Duterte administration that the term extrajudicial killing has gained popular currency. Apparently, this is triggered by the bigger number of human lives lost in the war against prohibited drugs spearheaded by the Philippine National Police. Led by homegrown and international human rights advocates, the insinuation, if not outright accusation, is that these killings are unjustified because their target-victims are unarmed. And, as such, incapable of inflicting life-threatening action as to warrant the police operatives concerned to shoot and kill their targets in the name of self-preservation. This allegation appears to elicit public sympathy aroused by the perceived delay in the disclosure of the results of the so called ‘deaths under investigation’ involving casualties in drug-related operations. Of course, when viewed from the context that the subjects of investigations are police officers, the perception bears a different color---specifically, in the dispensation of much-awaited justice for the families of the victims. The situation is stirred by the nemesis of extrajudicial killing.
Setting aside public perception on alleged killings committed by police officers, it is relevant to remind in passing that the most compelling attribute of humanity is the right to self-preservation. Thus, any person has the right to totally immobilize his assailant if only to save his own life. Such resort to self-defense is not only an inherent human right as it is also instinctive in man. But in a society based on the rule of law, the requirements of due process must be observed in determining the culpability or innocence of persons allegedly involved in arbitrary killing or extrajudicial killing, particularly if those involved are police officers. It is hoped that if the process of the so-called deaths under investigation be facilitated and the results thereof publicly disclosed, the invocation of the term extrajudicial killing will find respite and probably be deleted from the prepared text recited every morning by some Barangay Pastoral Council functionaries as part of the rituals of the Catholic church.