U.S. Congress To Hold Hearings on Human Rights, Drug War in the Philippines

The US Congress Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing on the human rights consequences of the ‘war on drugs’ currently underway in the Philippines. AP/J. Scott Applewhite

MANILA, Philippines — The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, under the US Congress, will hold an inquiry into the Philippines’ war on drugs on Thursday.

The US Congress commission has invited witnesses that will analyze the implementation of the so-called war on drugs and its consequence for the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Among the panelists for the upcoming hearing are iDEFEND Philippines spokesperson Ellecer Carlos, Amnesty International Senior Crisis Advisor Matthew Wells and Human Rights Watch Asia Division Deputy Director Phelim Kine.

“They will also provide policy recommendations for ensuring accountability for human rights violations and for addressing the problems of drug abuse and trafficking in ways consistent with promoting public health and strengthening rule of law,” the US Congress commission said.

The US had been supporting the Philippine National Police in its counterterrorism and counternarcotics campaign.

PNP data showed that 7,025 drug-related killings have been carried out from July 1, 2016 and January 21, 2017 — an average of 34 per day.

“Although extrajudicial killings have been a major human rights concern for some time, in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016, the Department of State recognized that such killings increased sharply over the last year,” the US Congress commission said.

The US Congress noted that President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs and reports of extrajudicial killings have raised questions whether Washington should balance its concerns for protecting human rights and the rule of law while maintaining bilateral alliance.

The Philippines and the US have been allies for more than 70 years. The Philippines is the largest recipient of US assistance in East Asia.

This is not the first time that American lawmakers under the human rights panel are tackling a situation in the Philippines. In 2015, members of the congressional commission were briefed on human rights violations by police and military personnel in the Philippines. Panelists at the meeting included Filipino rights workers.

“Security forces are responsible for the most significant human rights concerns in the country, including extrajudicial killings, harassment, disappearances, illegal arrests and torture,” the announcement for the 2015 briefing read.

RELATED: US senators reconsider assistance to Philippines amid drug war





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