Bongbong Marcos should prosecute drug war rights abusers – HRW
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s next move, after admitting that “certain elements” in government had committed abuses during the war against illegal drugs, should be to prosecute those behind the violations, global watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.
HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said in a statement that since Marcos has already acknowledged human rights abuses occurring during the drug war, the next step is to file criminal cases and prosecute erring police officers.
“While President Marcos’ recent statement on the abuses committed during the ‘war on drugs’ is hedged and measured, it is still a long overdue acknowledgment of a problem. Now, President Marcos needs to take the next step,” Robertson said.
“Armed with the knowledge the police committed abuses, he should do the next logical and just thing: order the criminal prosecution of police officers implicated in abuses in the ‘drug war.’ Doing so would prove his sincerity, and the thousands of victims of the anti-drug campaign deserve nothing less,” he added.
Robertson’s statement came after Marcos, in a forum in Washington D.C., United States (US) hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, admitted that the drug war of his predecessor, former president Rodrigo Duterte, focused too much on law enforcement.
He said this paved the way for the abuses of certain elements.
This is not the first time that Marcos, perceived as an ally of the Dutertes, distanced himself from the bloody drug war. In June 2022, before assuming office, Swedish Ambassador Annika Thunborg said that the drug war was discussed during courtesy calls of envoys from different countries, and Marcos, during the talks, promised a drug war within the framework of human rights.
United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez also said that Marcos committed to ensuring accountability in the drug war. At that time, police officers were convicted in only one drug war case — 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, who was shot in execution style last August 2017 despite the teenager pleading and surrendering to cops.
Then, Marcos and Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. launched a “new” drug war program focusing on demand reduction and user rehabilitation.
Robertson said that the lack of accountability is evident as cops were convicted in only three cases — including delos Santos — out of the over 6,200 killings in legitimate anti-drug operations.
“No one should overlook the fact that out of the more than 6,200 killings the police had admitted to committing, only three cases have resulted in a court conviction. Such a record of failure in accountability and justice is both outrageous and unacceptable,” he said.
The HRW official also said that Marcos’ internal cleansing in the Philippine National Police (PNP) is also not enough, adding that the Chief Executive must cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation.
So far, Marcos has been firm that an ICC probe will only be welcome if the country’s justice system fails, which he said has not been the case.
“Marcos’ claim of an ‘internal cleansing’ in the Philippine National Police is hardly a sufficient response to this serious problem, as any Filipino on the street would tell you, because there is nothing in the history of the Philippines police to indicate that they will be willing to hold their own accountable,” Robertson claimed.
“In reality, this ‘cleansing’ is a token response designed for propaganda more than anything else. President Marcos should stop playing games with justice for ‘drug war’ victims and launch an honest-to-goodness prosecution of police perpetrators, as well as start cooperating with the ICC’s on-going investigation of ‘drug war’ abuses under former President Rodrigo Duterte,” he added.