CHR calls out gov’t for excluding them in ‘drug war’ review
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has scored the administration for not including them in the inter-agency panel tasked to review the deaths that occurred in the controversial war on drugs.
According to CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit, the exclusion of the commission in doing the high-level review goes against the commitments made by the government during the 44th Session of the Human Rights Council, where Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra assured state-parties that the Philippine government will probe the issue.
Guevarra’s Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly submitted its partial report on the drug war deaths to President Rodrigo Duterte, but this did not include findings and views from CHR — an agency that has repeatedly called on the government to respect human rights in the conduct of the police’s anti-drug operations.
“[CHR] acknowledges the announcement of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra regarding the release of the partial report conducted by a high-level inter-agency panel of the thousands of deaths resulting from the conduct of recent anti-illegal drug operations,” Dumpit said. “We consider the government’s action as a step towards ensuring accountability and addressing impunity.”
“However, we regret that the Commission on Human Rights was not involved in the review, contrary to the commitments and assurances made by the government during the 44th Session of the Human Rights Council. This is an unfulfilled promise to Filipinos and the entire community of nations,” she added.
Guevarra’s assurance of an investigation on drug war deaths came last June 2020, when he spoke on behalf of the Philippine government during the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). This was after rights groups and other member-states pushed the UNHRC to investigate the country’s allegedly problematic human rights situation.
In the session, the DOJ Secretary said the review mechanism will “tighten the web on existing mechanisms to prevent cases of impunity.”
Previously, UNHRC found the country’s human rights situation to be that of near impunity as the drug war supposedly targeted innocent individuals.
“The government then announced that ‘as with all human rights-related mechanisms in the country, the Commission on Human Rights would be involved in its capacity as an independent monitoring body’ and would play an important role in the high-level inter-agency panel,” Dumpit stressed.
“The panel was likewise meant to ‘engage with affected families and provide them with legal options and assistance in the criminal prosecution of law enforcers who have overstepped legal bounds in their operations,” she noted.
Eventually, UNHRC decided to pass a resolution that would not probe the Duterte administration’s drug war and opted to offer technical assistance and capacity building to the Philippines to “provide support for the country in its continued fulfillment of its international human rights obligations and commitments.”
This fell short of proposals to fully investigate local affairs — which administration critics and relatives of drug war casualties fear would not be enough to solve the alleged spate of killings in the country.
Dumpit said CHR supports the government’s initiative, and that they are eager to work with authorities especially in the review of drug war deaths.
“As the country’s independent national human rights institution, the Commission is committed [to] supporting the Philippine government’s efforts to ensure accountability and transparency, prevent impunity, and improve the human rights situation on the ground,” Dumpit said.
“Despite persistent challenges, the Commission has never closed its doors to opportunities for cooperation with government. We have respectfully, diligently, consistently, and repeatedly asked the Department of Justice concerning the role of the Commission on Human Rights in the said panel,” she added.
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