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Philippines

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were numerous reports that the PNP committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in connection with a government-directed campaign against illegal drugs. Killings of activists, judicial officials, local government leaders, and journalists by unknown assailants and antigovernment insurgents continued.

The PNP reported that 2,155 suspected drug dealers were killed in police operations under the government’s antidrug campaign, Operation Double Barrel, between July 1 and December 26. The PNP reported that 4,049 individuals with alleged links to illegal drugs died in vigilante killings by unknown assailants between July 1 and December 15. President Duterte campaigned on a platform against crime, specifically the widespread trafficking and abuse of illegal narcotics, which included numerous public statements suggesting that killing suspected drug traffickers and users was necessary to meet his goal of wiping out drug-related crime within three to six months of assuming office. Although the president and senior officials stated that police should follow the law, and that there was no tolerance for extrajudicial killings, authorities made promises of immunity from investigation and prosecution for officers involved in drug killings. The PNP’s Internal Affairs Service reported that manpower and resource limitations hampered the legally required investigations into deaths resulting from police operations, but asserted that 100 percent of the deaths in police shootings resulted from legitimate, lawful police operations.

On at least two occasions, President Duterte released lists of suspected drug criminals, including government, police, and military officials and members of the judiciary. The government has not revealed the source of this information and the accuracy and legitimacy of the lists has been questioned. Some individuals named on the lists were subsequently killed in either police operations or suspected vigilante killings.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an independent government agency responsible for investigating alleged human rights violations, investigated 227 new complaints of alleged extrajudicial or politically motivated killings involving 299 victims as of August. Some of these complaints involved police or vigilante killings associated with the antidrug campaign. The CHR also announced an investigation into President Duterte’s claims that he had personally killed several suspects during his earlier tenure as mayor of Davao. The CHR suspected personnel from the PNP or the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency were involved in 112 of the complaints, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or paramilitary personnel in one, members of the communist/terrorist NPA in four, civilians in one, local government units in one, and unidentified persons in the remainder.

The PNP’s Task Force Usig, which was responsible for investigating and monitoring killings of media members, labor activists, and foreigners, reported no new cases from January to August.

The reported number of alleged extrajudicial killings during the year varied widely, as the government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) used different definitions. As of August 31, the NGO Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) documented six cases of state-perpetrated, politically motivated killings carried out by the AFP and/or the PNP. The TFDP noted that these cases were separate from killings in the antidrug campaign.

In one case, the November 5 killing of Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa in his prison cell by PNP officers executing a search warrant drew condemnation from the Commission on Human Rights and legislators. A one-day senate inquiry into the operation determined there was strong evidence that this was a premeditated killing of a suspect with links to the illegal drug trade by police officers in the line of duty.

In another case, two off-duty police officers were arrested in Mindoro in October after they shot and killed Zenaida Luz, regional chairperson of Citizens Crime Watch. The officers were out of uniform and not undertaking an official operation when they shot and killed Luz. The officers remained in detention as of November, but the trial had not begun.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by public officials, but the government did not implement these laws effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: To combat corruption, the constitution establishes the independent Office of the Ombudsman, an appellate-level anticorruption court (the Sandiganbayan), and a Commission on Audit. All three organizations were under-resourced but actively collaborated with the public and civil society and appeared to operate independently and use their limited resources effectively. Despite government efforts to file charges and obtain convictions in a number of cases, officials continued to engage in corrupt practices with relative impunity.

Investigation of allegations continued in the expanding “pork barrel” scandal of 2014 about the diversion of congressional funds to fake NGOs. The Department of Justice committed to review the previous administration’s probe of alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). To date, three senators have been charged with plunder over the PDAF scam; in November the Office of the Ombudsman recommended the dismissal of Senator Joel Villanueva due to his alleged involvement in the scam.

As of August, the Office of the Ombudsman had won 44 convictions in 210 corruption cases during the year, including the conviction of a former Bukidnon first district congressional representative, Nereus Acosta, and his mother Socorro Acosta, a former mayor, for the illegal use of the congressional representative’s PDAF in 2002. Ignacio Turuc, the former mayor of Buguey, Cagayan was also convicted and sentenced to six to 10 years in prison for withholding the salaries of five employees in 2007. In addition to imprisonment, Turuc was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

In August the government released former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo after several years of detention for alleged corruption during her presidential term. The Supreme Court declared that state prosecutors had failed to present evidence sufficient to prove her guilt.

Reports continued of widespread corruption among prison guards and some prison officials and of solicitation of bribes by PNP members and judicial workers, who were accused of extorting bribes by threatening to delay or derail cases if not paid bribes. In September the House of Representatives began an investigation into the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison and allegations that specific government officials, including then-Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima (now serving as a senator), allowed inmates special treatment in exchange for payoffs.

Financial Disclosure: The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees requires all public officials and employees to file under oath a statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth and to disclose their personal business interests and financial connections, as well as those of their spouses and unmarried children living in their households. Nondisclosure is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding five years, a fine not exceeding 5,000 ($104), or both and, at the discretion of the court, disqualification from holding public office. The Civil Service Commission implements and enforces the law, forwarding nondisclosure cases to the Office of the Ombudsman for prosecution. The ombudsman reported that, as of September, 72 cases were opened for failure to submit sufficient Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. Of these, 69 led to criminal charges for violating the law and three resulted in administrative action. In September the congressional bicameral Commission on Appointments confirmed 24 military officers, despite noting that many had failed to submit sufficient Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for the right to information on matters of public concern, but there are no definitions of procedures, fees, and deadlines for providing such access; no exceptions for denial of access; no appeal processes; and no penalties for officials who fail to disclose lawfully available data. Denial of such information occurred during the year, especially when related to irregularities in government transactions. Overall, the lack of guidelines and information on how to obtain government information meant that it was largely unavailable to the general public. In July, President Duterte signed the Executive Order on Freedom of Information (FOI) requiring all executive branch officers to disclose details of their transactions; the online portal for FOI requests went live on November 25.

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