Documenting human rights abuses under this current regime

There are already some organizations involved in documenting human rights abuses such as summary executions, arbitrary detentions and police brutality under the current administration, but most victims and their kins are not being serviced by these organizations simply because of the enormity of the problem. (Consider that, per PDEA by March 2018 there had been more 4,000 drug-linked personalities who had been killed, and per Malacanang’s own yearend report for 2017, about 16,000 deaths, each of which may or may not be drug-related, are under investigation.) Many of those identified by servicing organizations are also reluctant to have the violation documented, for fear of reprisal.

But documentation of these abuses are necessary, if we aim to move on and close this dark chapter of our nation’s history after a more humane and people-centered administration is sworn in, whether in 2022 or much later, should the current administration be able to hoodwink again the Filipino people to extend itself beyond 2022. Documents relating to the abuse suffered by our people would be necessary in order to later establish the true story and craft possible reparatory schemes. Lest we forget, we do not start from scratch here: the martial law victims compensation did occur, and we could learn a lot from the mistakes of how the reparations were done.

The documentation should ideally be done by the victims or their surviving kins, and kept in some folder somewhere, so that these could be presented later, sa panahon ng pagtutuos.

Here are some concrete steps we could all take, and some of these could be done even by those who are fortunate enough not to have someone close suffer at the hands of our fellow Filipinos during this so-called War on Drugs:

1. If possible, get the narrative of what happened in affidavit form, and have it notarized. If you have access to a lawyer who is not from the government, ask help in crafting your affidavit and having it notarized. If you are afraid of a possible reprisal, ask the lawyer to keep your affidavit strictly confidential. By having a lawyer help you execute an affidavit, you become his or her client, and your transaction is covered by the attorney-client privilege, which forbids even the disclosure that you had been a client. Probably even the most hardened Duterte fanatic client would respect this privilege, because this is the heart and soul of our practice. (Nevertheless if you could, steer clear of lawyers who are Duterte fanatics.)

As to notarization, not all lawyers are notaries public. Once the affidavit is done, you could have it notarized before a public prosecutor for free. However, public prosecutors do not keep copies of your affidavits. Ideally, even if you have no intention of pursuing cases as of now, you should have a copy of your affidavit somewhere else other than your person or your residence. Some notaries public asks copies even of affidavits for their notarized files as well as for submission to the court (under the rules, we are only required to keep copies of contracts, which an affidavit is not). The benefit of having these other copies somewhere else is even if something happens to you or your family, the copies with the lawyer and the court would remain in those archives and potentially someone could come across them later on.

If you don’t have access to a lawyer, law students and even criminology students should be able to help you craft an affidavit, but please take note that they are not covered by the attorney-client privilege and would not be violating any legal rule if they disclose anything about your transaction.

If it would not be too much, ask the lawyer to print the affidavit on acid-free paper. Use that because the writings would not fade even after so many years. Who knows it would be Kitty Duterte the Filipinos would be voting out of power 50 years from now. Acid-free paper could be bought from any decent school supply shop.

2. Pictures would also greatly help. Take a picture of the dead body, even before the responding police came. Keep copies of these pictures even if you give the camera or cellphone to the police. Upload them to Facebook, preferably with a public setting so that othera may document them too, but even a private for-you-only setting (if you are afraid) would be useful. Probably Facebook will outlast this administration.

If you could print out the pictures, print them out, and have the name and signature of the photographer at the back, along with the date when the picture was taken.

3. Take notes using pen and paper. List the date and time of the occurence, how many came, how many shots were fired, what really happened, etc. in as much detail as possible. Use acid-free paper if you have access to it. Or you could look through your library and look for a book printed on acid-free paper (they have a certain texture) and write on the empty pages or margins of that book.

4. If the abuse had become a news story, buy or look for copies of the newspapers carrying the story and clip it out. If it was carried by television stations, look for copies of the program online and download the clip. If it was carried by online news sites, print out the webpage carrying the story (again, if possible, on acid-free paper, because you know, Kitty). Make sure that the headers/footers include the URL of the page, and the date and time of printing.

5. If the abuse was documented by responding police, ask for a copy of the blotter excerpt. In any case, obtain medical certificates as well.

These steps are by no means the only concrete steps we could take. If you have comments to any of these, or have some suggestions of your own, feel free to comment below. Most importantly, share this post – you might encourage victims and kins of victims to start documenting now. The closer to the incident the documentation started, the more reliable it is.

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