UN rights chief to Duterte administration: Revoke policies that lead to killings
MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration must “revoke the policies” that have led to the rising spate of deaths here in the Philippines, the UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) said on Tuesday at the opening of the 45th Human Rights Council session in Geneva.
High Commissioner Michele Bachelet made this remark as she expressed concernsabout President Rodrigo Duterte’s intention to reinstate the death penalty.In her statement, Bachelet specifically mentioned both the drug war as well as the recently passed Anti-Terror Bill “with many problematic provisions,” which rights groups feared was being used to justify the arbitrary arrests and killings of human rights defenders and activists.
“There is clearly an urgent need to revoke these policies that continue to result in killings and other human rights violations, to bring to justice the perpetrators, and to halt the use of rhetoric inciting violence against people who use or sell drugs,” Bachelet said.
Bachelet said she was concerned by “continued reports of drug-related killings by both police and vigilantes [even] during COVID-related restrictions on movement.”
In June, Bachelet published a damning report revealing “serious human rights violations” in the Philippines, including the rising number of police-related deaths and arbitrary detentions under the brutal war on drugs, as well as vilification of dissent under a hostile administration.
The report, which examined the documents relating to the drug war, found “a troubling lack of due process protections, and the use of language calling for ‘negation’ and ‘neutralization’ of drug suspects.”
While Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra rejected the OHCHR’s concerns, he promised to undertake an internal investigation into some 5,655 drug raids conducted under “Oplan Tokhang” in 2016.
The OHCHR, Bachelet said, was still seeking details from the Philippine government regarding its promised internal police investigations.
Addressing her colleagues, she also urged the council to “remain active in this situation, and to support the (OHCHR)’s continued monitoring and reporting” into the human rights situation in the Philippines, noting the continued harassment and threats of violence against journalists, activists and critics.
The UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings on Monday also urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “prioritize the completion” of its preliminary investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines, as well as for UN member states to “apply sanctions against individual Philippine officials” who are being cited for inciting or neglecting human rights violations here.
During the virtual Global Day of Action hosted by local human rights groups here, Agnes Callamard said the international community “must act now in the context of its preventive mandate, and it must act decisively” in light of the growing number of deaths in the Philippines.
Human rights watchdogs have noted that, despite Bachelet’s damning report on the Philippines’ human rights situation last June, extrajudicial killings of suspected drug users and human rights defenders have not abated even during the ongoing public health crisis.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.