Rights group sneers at gov’t ‘playing victim’ in drug war
“The government should stop depicting itself as (a) victim,” a human rights advocate lashed out at Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano who, on Wednesday, asked the UN Human Rights Council not to “politicize” or “weaponize” the issue against the Duterte administration.
In a statement on Thursday, international watchdog Human Rights Watch said Cayetano’s claim was “totally without basis” and only served to frustrate the call for accountability in reported human rights violations in the government’s war on drugs.
“The truth is, the Philippine government needs to answer for the more than 12,000 lives lost without due process in this brutal campaign across the country. The government should stop depicting itself as the victim,” said Human Rights Watch Philippine researcher Carlos Conde.
“The UN Human Rights Council should take all necessary measures to help end extrajudicial killings in the Philippines’ drug war and bring those responsible to justice, including establishing an independent international body to investigate these abuses which may amount to crimes against humanity,” he added.
Conde, a staunch critic of President Duterte, had been calling out Mr. Duterte for vigilante killings throughout the latter’s multiple terms as mayor of Davao City.
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia also reminded officials of the country’s obligations to hew to UN standards on human rights as a signatory to various treaties.
“We remind the government, especially the security sector, that there is a need to show that the rule of law still prevails and the law requires them to obey lawful orders,” De Guia said.
Proven in court
The CHR in a statement on Friday maintained that all cases of killings during police operations, supposedly arising from self-defense against suspects who had reportedly fought back (“nanlaban”), should be proven in court.
Since Mr. Duterte took office in 2016, the government reported more than 4,000 “drug personalities killed in antidrug operations.”
Validity of claim
“Where police officers kill alleged criminals on the ground of self-defense, the validity of such (claim) must be established in proper court proceedings,” De Guia said.
The human rights lawyer cited the case of the Quezon City police recently filing homicide complaints against lawyer Argel Cabatbat and his companion John Ramos, who had fired back and killed one of their assailants in an ambush on Feb. 13.
The assailant killed turned out to be a police officer who had gone AWOL (absent without leave).
In explaining the charges they filed on ambush victims Cabatbat and Ramos, the Quezon City police said it was “procedural to file the case because someone died.”
“The same procedure should be applied not only against civilians claiming self-defense, but also against police officers in so-called nanlaban cases. They must also prove in court that their killings of suspects were in self-defense,” De Guia pointed out.
“Law enforcers are not above the law and should be equally accountable for human rights violations,” she added.
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