‘Don’t make war on drugs war on human rights’
A coalition of human rights advocates urged President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday not to make his war on drugs a war on human rights.
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend) emphasized the need to deal with the cause of drug addiction in the Philippines—poverty.
Around 30 private groups gathered in Quezon City yesterday to launch iDefend, intended to “fill a vacuum” left by the collapse of the political opposition, as well as to provide legal services to families of victims of extrajudicial killings and police operations in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs.
People oppose killings
Former Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, spokesperson for iDefend, said the movement aimed to show the administration that there were people who opposed its policy of killing drug suspects.
The movement also aims to remind the Duterte administration of the Philippines’ commitment to international human rights treaties, Bello said.
The spate of killings of drug suspects indicates that the Duterte administration is “simply addressing the symptoms instead of the principal cause of illegal drug use,” he said.
“Most studies have shown that while only a small minority of the poor are drug users, illegal drug use is most prevalent among the poor and underprivileged, and the most likely reason is to escape from the harsh realities of poverty, hopelessness and powerlessness,” he said.
Scale of the problem
Bello said the drug wars initiated by Colombia, Mexico and the United States had shown that “repressive drug policy does not work.”
“The administration doesn’t even know the scale of the problem it is dealing with … Getting rid of drugs and crime by extrajudicial murder won’t be accomplished in the promised three to six months. It won’t be finished in six years,” he said.
The former lawmaker said that unless the government generates jobs for all to enable them to live in dignity, the drug problem will persist.
“It all boils down to a war against the poor. We can be sure that even with a high kill rate, we will still have a massive drug problem after six years,” Bello said.
As of noon on Friday, the Inquirer’s Kill List showed 601 drug suspects had been killed since Mr. Duterte took office on June 30. More than 200 of the killings have been attributed to vigilantes.
Virginia Suarez, Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya chair, said the government was equally responsible for the killings committed by vigilantes.
“Every citizen has the right to live and be protected in his own country, and that is the government’s responsibility. It has the duty to resolve those killings [carried out] by vigilantes,” Suarez said.
She noted that the explanation that drug suspects are killing each other all the more shows that the campaign against drugs is “ineffective.”
“Instead of safeguarding the people, the people are rendered more insecure and unsafe, and that shows immediately how ineffective the campaign of the government is,” she said.
Suarez said the government must clarify how it looks at drug dependents.
She said drug users should not be looked at as criminals, but as “victims” in need of intervention.
The victims may have been forced into drugs because of poverty, she said.
Bello said that in the coming days, the movement would start working with the Commission on Human Rights and organizing people to call for the upholding of due process and the rule of law in the war on drugs. TVJ