The Philippines: [OPINION] Police, victims, and a call for change


Every life and family impacted is precious. But this high number of killings is, in itself, a broader, institutional concern.

The killing of two unarmed civilians, Sonya and Frank Gregorio, that happened last December 20, has rightly met with widespread condemnation and ignited the debate about the need for police reform in the Philippines.  

There are different views emerging in this public debate. Some see the killings as an isolated incident by a “bad cop” who needs to be prosecuted and removed from the police force. (READ: Timeline of Tarlac shooting: What we know so far)

Others point to lawlessness and lack of respect for the police, contributing to an “us versus them” mentality. Yet others emphasize a policing culture of addressing crime by resorting to violence and abuse of power. 


In recent weeks, a number of killings – by unknown assailants, of individuals playing a role in protecting their communities – has been reported. The killing of two human rights activists in August, of a journalist in November, of two lawyers in Cebu in November and December, and of a doctor and her husband last December 16, are among the most recent such cases.

This impacts negatively on security and development.  


The Human Rights Council resolution adopted by consensus on October 7 of this year, with the support of the Government of the Philippines and a large number of member states, has provided a basis for such cooperation.  

Since the adoption of the Human Rights Council Resolution, the UN has actively engaged with civil society organizations, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, and a range of different government actors to set the basis of an ambitious program.

However, we should agree that the success of technical cooperation greatly relies on the existence of an enabling environment, with strong commitment to change.  

The killing of Sonya and Frank Gregorio impacts on all of us. Preventing such killings and ensuring accountability must be our foremost priority.

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