Human Rights Watch: Philippines in “human rights calamity”

Protesters stage a “die-in” to dramatize the rising number of extra judicial killings related to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “War on Drugs” Friday, Aug. 26, 2016 in front of the Philippine National Police headquarters in suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. According to police, nearly 2,000 people, mostly suspected drug-dealers and users, have been killed in drug-related incidents since President Duterte took office June 30, 2016 and prompted Philippine senators to open an inquiry into the killings. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines – As the casualties in the government’s war on drugs continue to pile up, the Philippines faces a “human rights calamity,” according to Human Rights Watch.

Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Asia deputy director, said at an ABS-CBN News Channel forum on human rights Tuesday night that the number of suspects killed in the hands of police in the first eight weeks of the Duterte administration is 10 times higher than those who died in the first six months of the year.

“What we’ve been seeing in the Philippines since June 30th when President Duterte took office is a human rights calamity,” Kine said.

“This is nothing less than absolute human rights disaster. We have the highest elected official of the land openly, actively, aggressively calling for the extrajudicial killing of criminal suspects,” Kine lamented.

He added: “This is an emergency situation and the government, instead of responding to this with an urgent, impartial investigation to find out why and how the police have killed more than 700 people in the last eight weeks… your government is not just sitting on its hands, it’s actively encouraging the police to continue with this behavior and at the same time calling on the public to kill suspected criminals.”

Based on latest data from the Philippine National Police, figures on police-related killings have risen to 900. Kine said the number does not include alleged drug personalities that unidentified assailants killed, which has reached to around 1,000.

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“The numbers are absolutely shocking,” he said.

“This is absolutely a disastrous situation because of the number of people killed in such a short period of time.”

Chief Supt. Dennis Siervo, PNP Human Rights Office chief, said those killed during police operations   had fought back.

“There is a presumption of regularity,” he said.

Siervo said investigations are being conducted on some cases, such as in the shooting of a drug suspect and his father inside a police station and the killing of a pedicab driver who was caught on tape surrendering.

“We respect and uphold human rights, but in the process, in the conduct of arrests, there is severe resistance that we are facing, that’s why we also have to neutralize the suspect,” he said.

However, Kine wants to know why the number of police-related killings has risen during the current administration.

“This government is trashing the very concept of rule of law and that is a very dangerous road for the Philippines to travel,” he said.

“You don’t approach a complex criminal problem by throwing out the rulebook and deciding that the only way to do this is to kill people without due process. You are on a road to complete anarchy and savagery.”

Martin Diño of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, a supporter of Duterte, said impartial bodies like the Commission on Human Rights and the National Bureau of Investigation can investigate allegations of extrajudicial killings.

People feel safer as criminals are being hunted down, he added.

However, Kine said the lack of due process robs people killed of the opportunity to defend themselves.

“We have no idea who those people were and what they might have been because they never saw a lawyer, they never got into a court, they were denied due legal process which is the foundation of the rule of law,” he said.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano decried what he called as an effort to discredit President Duterte in the international community by linking him to alleged extra-judicial killings in the war against illegal drugs in the country.

In a privilege speech delivered yesterday, Cayetano singled out Sen. Leila de Lima and Commission on Human Rights head Jose Luis Martin Gascon for making it appear that the President is behind the killings of suspected drug pushers, the number of which has risen to over 2,000.

De Lima is leading an ongoing Senate inquiry into the alleged extrajudicial killings, which has drawn the ire not only of President Duterte, but also his supporters.

Cayetano, a staunch supporter of the President, questioned De Lima on her neutrality, accusing her of already having a judgment on the killings even before she has heard all sides of the story.

“De Lima said that the killings can lead to charges of crimes against humanity. The people charged with this are mad men or those with cases of genocide,” Cayetano said.

“How can you be neutral when you are saying that?” he added, referring to a statement made by De Lima about the possibility of Duterte being brought before the International Criminal Court.

As for Gascon, Cayetano said that it was wrong for him to classify the killing of the suspected drug pushers as extrajudicial killings.

Cayetano said that common crimes such as murder or homicide cases involving suspected drug pushers are not extrajudicial killings.

“Why are you destroying the image of the Philippines? Why are you inviting trade sanctions from the EU (European Union)?” Cayetano said. – With Marvin Sy


From Human Rights Watch

The Philippine National Police (PNP) confirmed today at a Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings the shocking human toll inflicted by the police in the “war on drugs” launched by President Rodrigo Duterte after taking office seven weeks ago.

PNP Director-General Ronald Dela Rosa speaks at a Senate hearing investigating drug-related killings in metro Manila, Philippines on August 22, 2016.

PNP Director-General Ronald Dela Rosa speaks at a Senate hearing investigating drug-related killings in metro Manila, Philippines on August 22, 2016.

Police statistics show that from July 1 to August 19, 2016, police have killed an estimated 712 suspected “drug pushers and users.” That death toll constitutes a more-than-tenfold jump over the 68 such police killings recorded between January 1 and June 15, a period of over five months.

PNP Director-General Ronald dela Rosa was unconcerned by the sharp rise, characterizing the killings as proof of an “uncompromising” police approach to drug crimes. Dela Rosa added that police personnel implicated in unjustified killings of criminal suspects “will be investigated, prosecuted, and accordingly punished,” but made it clear that he will not proactively examine those deaths.

Last month dela Rosa slammed calls for an investigation as “legal harassment,” saying it “dampens the morale” of police officers. Meanwhile, the country’s top prosecutor, Solicitor-General Jose Calida, defended the legality of police killings and suggested that the number of such deaths was “not enough.”

Police statistics attribute an additional 1,072 killings of alleged drug dealers and drug users to unknown vigilantes since July 1. Dela Rosa stated that he did not “condone” extrajudicial killings, but he made no indication that those deaths – more than 20 killings a day between July 1 and August 19 – merited urgent investigation.

These killings suggest Duterte’s aggressive rhetoric advocating violent, extrajudicial solutions to criminality in the Philippines has found a receptive audience. Last month he exhorted Filipinos who knew of any drug addicts to “go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.” This prompted the United Nations Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, to accuse Duterte last week of effectively granting the police and others “a license to kill.”

Duterte is steamrolling the rule of law and its advocates both at home and abroad. He has declared the soaring number of killings of alleged criminal suspects as proof of the “success” of his anti-drug campaign and urged police to “seize the momentum.” He has sought to intimidate domestic critics of that campaign and dismissed international critics as “stupid.” Other countries, including the United States and European Union members, should make it clear to Duterte that inciting such violence is unacceptable and will reap potentially severe diplomatic and economic costs, beyond the human one.

Otherwise, it’s hard to envision when these killings will end.

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