Duterte’s ‘drug war’ encouraged impunity, failed to protect rights – CHR report
MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration’s brutal campaign against illegal drugs has “encouraged a culture of impunity” as it failed to respect and protect the rights of Filipinos, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said.
In its 48-page report titled “Investigated Killings In Relation to the Anti-Illegal Drug Campaign” released recently, the CHR concluded that police officers involved in the “drug war” showed “intent to kill” and used “excessive force” in its anti-illegal drug operations.
The CHR study analyzed 882 case dockets involving 1,139 victims. Of this, 920 were killed, while seven cases have remained shrouded in mystery.
The CHR also noted that majority of these victims belonged to the marginalized, vulnerable, and disadvantaged sectors of Philippine society.
It said perpetrators often invoked “nanlaban” plots, wherein victims supposedly resisted or fought back authorities by pulling out or grabbing firearms. But the CHR probe found that only 31 incidents showed that police operatives sustained injuries during drug operations and that witnesses’ accounts in 133 more incidents “state discrepancies and inconsistencies in the official police narratives.”
“The use of excessive and disproportionate force is also evident in 329 incidents where a lone victim was killed in drug operations participated by a minimum of three well-trained and highly skilled police operatives, armed with highly reliable weapons,” the CHR said in its report.
“Out of the 235 victims with records on sustained gunshot wounds, 201 (86%) were shot in the head and/or torso – further manifesting the intent to kill by police operatives,” it added.
The CHR further explained that the injuries sustained by the victims, and the manner by which the bodies were disposed of reveal that the perpetrators had no intention to keep the victims alive.
All of these were possible violations of the rights of the drug suspects and indicate lapses in the observance of protocols established by law and reiterated in PNP Manuals, according to the CHR.
Culture of impunity
The rights body likewise noted impunity within which these killings occur and operate during its investigation and documentation, explaining that “perpetrators were seldom brought to justice as the climate of fear paralyzes accountability mechanisms and processes. “
“In several instances, the Commission finds that families and witnesses decline to participate in any investigation in fear for their own safety and security. Some individuals have refused to be named as sources of information, scared to be identified and later be targeted by the perpetrators,” the CHR said.
“At times, perpetrators are shielded from independent, prompt, and thorough investigations through the invocation of the processes supposedly created to ensure protection and promotion of rights and freedoms,” it added.
The CHR then underscored the PNP’s repeated denial of their request for access to police records as also indicative of the lack of transparency and impartiality in the police force’s internal processes.
“Given the conclusions of this report, the Commission finds that the government has not only failed in its obligation to respect and protect the human rights of every citizen, in particular, victims of drug-related killings, but it has also encouraged a culture of impunity that shields perpetrators from being held to account,” it said.
It likewise emphasized that while it supports measures to combat the effects of illegal drugs, the CHR reminded authorities that such measures must be “coupled with a strong drive to promote due process, equal protection, full accountability, and the rule of law, thus, fulfilling its fundamental duty to uphold the rights and dignity of all.”
Palace: A ‘rehash of old issues’
Malacañang, however, simply brushed off the CHR report.
It asserted that it had already responded to all questions surrounding the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. But it also said it was “pleased” that the CHR has independently exercised its mandate, which is “a testament to how the Duterte Administration has allowed our democratic civic space to be enriched under his term.”
“In contrast to what a handful of critiques would want the international community to hear and read about our country, the Duterte Administration leaves a legacy of a safe and secure Philippines,” said acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar in a statement.
The Palace then asked the CHR to coordinate with the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat “so that its recommendations may be discussed with all the government offices it has put to task.”
The administration launched its drug war as soon as President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in June 2016. The bloody campaign earned broad rebuke within and outside the country.
Government data showed that 6,241 suspects died in various anti-drug operations conducted from July 1, 2016, up to this year. But rights organizations and watchdogs placed the figures way beyond: more than 20,000.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), for its part, said it found that at least 8,600 died in the drug war as of March 2020.
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