PH government’s ‘sudden’ creation of drug panel slammed: It’s just meant to save face
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government’s alleged hasty creation of a task force that will investigate human rights issues in the drug war is but a reaction to a United Nations (UN) council report and merely “an attempt to save face.”
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) made such criticism on the government’s move and also raised fear the task force review of the more than 5,000 deaths in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs might not be able to get to the bottom of the issue.
“The sudden creation of a judicial review panel on the drug-related operations by the Philippine government is but an attempt to save face in front of the UN body and smacks of refusal to get to the bottom of the truth about the findings in the UN report,” ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy said in a statement on Thursday.
“It is hard to believe that President Rodrigo Duterte’s government is sincere in its claims of promoting and uplifting the dignity of Filipinos as Mr. Guevarra claims. Harassments, arrests, and killings of civilians are still happening on the ground with impunity,” he added.
During an online conference between government officials and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra assured the international body that an inter-agency group is conducting a judicious review of the 5,655 cases of drug suspects killed during anti-illegal drug operations.
On Wednesday, UNHRC member states called on the Philippine government to address human rights issues hounding the drug war, expressing alarm over the findings of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the country’s human rights situation.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also urged President Rodrigo Duterte to “refrain from signing” the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which has drawn flak from critics who said it may be used to silence even legitimate dissent.
The Duterte administration’s drug war — stemming from a campaign promise to rid the country’s streets of illegal substances — has attracted the international community’s attention due to reported growing incidence of alleged violence during police operations.
The issue even prompted a British filmmaker to visit the country and document the polarizing issue, which Malacañang has dismissed as nothing but black propaganda intended to tarnish the administration’s achievements in its war on drugs.
The drug war, principally the police’s prime anti-narcotics program “Oplan Tokhang” has already claimed the lives of more than 5,600 lives since Duterte took office in June 2016, according to Guevarra.
However, critics have questioned whether such numbers are accurate, saying actual numbers may even be higher perhaps about 30, 000.
Members of the position have also doubted the success of the drug war, with Vice President Leni Robredo – who briefly served as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) – saying that it is a massive failure, basing on the volume of illegal drugs that still enter the country compared to the amount seized by authorities.
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