THE United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on Thursday slammed the Duterte administration for the sharp increase in drug-related killings, following the appeal of more than 300 anti-narcotics and human rights groups from around the world to condemn the governent’s apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings.
The Palace, however, said Thursday that warring drug groups were behind the spate of vigilante-style killings of suspected drug dealers.
In a statement from Vienna, Austria, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said he joined UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in “condemning the apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings.”
“[Extrajudicial killings] is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Fedotov said in a statement.
Fedotov, who heads the UN anti-drug body, said that the apparent rise of drug-related killings “contravene the provisions of the international drug control conventions” and “do not serve the cause of justice.”
Fedotov also reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that during a special session of the UN General Assembly on the world drug problem, governments committed to ensuring that “all people can live in health, dignity and peace, with security and prosperity.”
“Such responses contravene the provisions of the international drug control conventions, [and] do not serve the cause of justice,” Fedotov said.
“UNODC stands ready to further engage with the Philippines and all countries to bring drug traffickers to justice with the appropriate legal safeguards in line with international standards and norms, and promote prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration approaches based in evidence, science, public health and human rights,” he added.
Human rights groups had expressed alarm over the spate of killings of suspected drug peddlers, with dozens of cadavers of suspected criminals abandoned in streets with “cardboard signs,” stating their supposed crimes allegedly perpetrated by the police–akin to forms of vigilante-style extrajudicial killings that saw an increase since Duterte took office.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo however, said that the supposed claims of police killings “aren’t anymore surprising,” saying further that it’s not the police, but the drug lords themselves who are readily cutting ties with their apparatuses just prevent them from getting caught.
“We view these killings as being perpetrated by the drug lords themselves,” Panelo told the Manila Standard in an interview.
“These are not vigilantes, they are killing each other to prevent themselves from being exposed, from those will surrender or will not surrender,” he added.
Since the beginning of the administration’s “war on drugs,” more than 5,418 drugs offenders have been arrested and 120,000 reported drug offenders voluntarily surrendered, including 7,000 pushers.
However, conservative figures from the Philippine National Police show that more than 402 drug suspects had been killed a month into Duterte’s presidency. The figure does not include those allegedly slain by vigilantes.
Duterte, in various speeches, reiterated his assurance to policemen to perform their tasks without having to worry about being prosecuted for killing suspected drug traffickers and pushers.
An estimated of 1.3 million Filipinos are drug users and more than 99 percent of Metro Manila barangays are affected, the Dangerous Drugs Board said.
Metamphetamine or “shabu” is the drug of choice, imported by the Chinese and Mexican cartels, and now produced locally. It is also considered one of the most addictive substances.
Duterte said Thursday he does not care about the rising number of drug suspects who were killed under his term.
“I do not care, I really do not care,” Duterte said in a speech at Ateneo de Davao University. “I know that a user will always be a user.”
He said that an addict needs someone to support his drug addiction, which is why many of them become criminals.
The Commission on Human Rights, however, challenged PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa’s order to shoot a drug suspect on sight, saying this was murder.
“The presumption of innocence of all persons is basic,” said Commissioner Leah Tanodra Armamento. “The existing legal framework or laws in no instance allows killing in the apprehension of suspects nor killing after conviction as there is no death penalty,” she told the Manila Standard.
“Shoot on sight is a violation of basic human rights–right to life, right to be presumed innocence and right to due process. “Clearly, shoot on sight is murder as it contains all the elements of murder,” she said. “(There are) intent to kill with evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday also hit the rash of vigilante killings, saying this was the “ugly side” of the administration’s anti-drug campaign.
“As of last count, yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, I was talking to a police officer who’s knowledgeable on the statistics. When I mentioned to him about the alarming number of vigilante killings which was more than 200, he corrected me right away. He told me, actually sir, it’s not just 200, it’s around 600 already,” Lacson told Thursday’s regular “Kapihan sa Senado.”
Lacson said he was more surprised when he heard the figure, and even questioned the police officer if what he just said was true.
Lacson said he was also told that the 600 did not include those killed in police operations.
“I have yet to hear a pronouncement from the Palace and even from General Dela Rosa that they are (doing something) to resolve those cases or find solutions to the summary killings,” Lacson said.
Also on Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that a Filipina was arrested in Hong Kong for carrying cocaine.
“Our consulate in Hong Kong has confirmed the case. She appeared in court on Aug. 1 for the reading of the charge and now awaits the bail hearing and start of trial,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said.
He said a representative of the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong has already visited the Filipina in her detention.
“The Philippine consulate will extend the necessary consular and legal assistance,” Jose said.
He said the department cannot divulge the identity of the detained Filipina “as a matter of policy.” With F. Pearl A. Gajunera, Sara Susanne D. Fabunan, Rio N. Araja and Macon Ramos-Araneta