Action for Economic Reforms (AER) strongly condemns the recent killings of citizens, including political activists, politicians, bureaucrats and drug users. We call on the government to put an end to the perpetration of these brutal murders and impunity.

The murders of Calbayog City Mayor Ronald Aquino and three of his bodyguards, as well as the killing of nine Calabarzon community organizers, are the most recent in this regime’s blatant attacks on human rights. Mayor Aquino is the 22nd mayor to be killed during the Duterte administration, while hundreds of activists have been killed. Thousands have been killed in the administration’s war on drugs.

President Duterte’s directives and statements have repeatedly made it clear that his regime tolerates and enables these senseless murders. He has only emboldened murderers to kill innocents and disregard the rule of law by refusing to hold them accountable for their actions.

In armed conflict, there needs to be strict adherence to the principles of proportionality and distinction to assess military necessity. This means that the harm caused to civilians needs to be proportional to the military advantage sought, and that parties must distinguish between civilians and combatants in order to ensure that civilians are protected. The recent brazen attacks on civilians clearly do not adhere to these principles.

There is no place for violence and impunity when many continue to lose their lives due to the pandemic. As we move closer to marking one year in community quarantine, we are witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases, and the need to uphold human lives is more salient than ever. Instead of continuously encouraging armed forces to “forget about human rights” and ordering the killing of anyone who expresses dissent, the administration’s efforts should be directed towards a quick and equitable vaccine distribution, containing the virus, and social protection for the marginalized.

We are calling on the Department of Justice and Congress to conduct a thorough investigation on the recent onslaught of killings. Lastly, we urge Congress to pass a bipartisan resolution to end the impunity and hold perpetrators accountable for these murders.