A HUMAN rights group on Tuesday urged international drug control agencies to condemn the surge in killings of suspected drug users and pushers in the Philippines.
“These global authorities with responsibility for international drug control should call for an immediate halt to the killings,” a statement from Human Rights Watch said.
In a letter, Human Rights Watch and more than 200 other organizations urged the International Narcotics Control Board and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to state unequivocally that such killings “do not constitute acceptable drug control measures.”
“International drug control agencies need to make clear to Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte that the surge in killings of suspected drug dealers and users is not acceptable ‘crime control,’ but instead a government failure to protect people’s most fundamental human rights,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“President Duterte should understand that passive or active government complicity with those killings would contradict his pledge to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law,” Kine added.
A “Kill List” that tallies the killings of suspected drug dealers and users by police and unidentified vigilantes clearly shows a surge in these drug-related deaths, the group said.
The “Kill List” recorded 465 deaths between June 30, 2016, the day Duterte assumed office, and Aug. 1.
Official statistics also support assertions of an alarming increase in police killings of drug-related criminal suspects.
Philippine National Police data indicate that police killed at least 192 such criminal suspects between May 10 and July 10.
That death toll in the two months following Duterte’s electoral victory dwarfs the 68 killings of suspects that police recorded during “anti-drug operations” between Jan. 1 and June 15.
Police have attributed the killings to suspects who “resisted arrest and shot at police officers,” but have not provided further evidence that the police acted in self-defense, Human Rights Watch said.
At his inauguration, Duterte identified illegal drugs as one of the country’s top problems and vowed that his government’s anti-drug battle “will be relentless and it will be sustained.”
Duterte also praised the killings as proof of the “success” of the anti-drug campaign and urged police to “seize the momentum.”
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa slammed as “legal harassment” a call for the Senate to investigate the killings, and said this would “dampen the morale” of police officers.
That same day, Duterte’s top judicial official, Solicitor General Jose Calida, defended the legality of the killings and said that the number of such deaths was “not enough.”
In the letter, the group called on the UNODC and INCB to communicate the following messages to the Philippine government:
• Assert that President Duterte’s actions to incite these extrajudicial killings cannot be justified as being in line with global drug control. All measures taken to control drugs in the Philippines must be grounded in international law;
• Request that Duterte put an immediate end to incitements to kill people suspected of committing drug-related offenses;
• Encourage Duterte to uphold the rule of law and ensure that the right to due process and a fair trial is guaranteed to all people suspected of committing drug-related crimes, in line with the conclusions of the 2016 UNODC World Drug Report;
• Promote an evidence-based and health-focused approach to people who use drugs, including voluntary treatment and harm reduction services, instead of compulsory detention, in line with UNODC’s guidance; and
• In line with the international human rights obligations of the Philippines—and with the official position of both the UNODC and the INCB—call on the Philippines not to reimpose the death penalty for drug offenses.
“International drug control agencies can play an invaluable role in halting the rising body count of suspected drug dealers and users killed by both police and unidentified vigilantes,” Kine said.
“The current status quo in the Philippines puts human rights, rule of law, and the safety and security of Filipinos in immediate peril,” Kine said.
Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday again denounced the administration over the spate of killings.
As of July 30, more than 400 persons died, an overwhelming majority of whom were killed during alleged gun battles with the police.
In her first privilege speech at the Senate, De Lima said this latest brand of justice flagrantly disregards the basic rights to due process of the law of innocents and suspects alike as guaranteed to them under the Constitution.
“We have to continue opposing the murder of the innocents as well as that of the suspects. We must call for the accountability of state actors responsible for this terrifying trend in law enforcement, and the investigation of killings perpetrated by the vigilante assassins,” she said.
“In the campaign against criminality, we cannot applaud criminal methods merely because we are left unaffected. Life has more value than an accusation written on a piece of cardboard whether you are rich or a scum of the earth. Needless to say, all lives matter,” she said.
Former Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello earlier expressed disappointment with the spate of killings.
He said the bloody encounters taking place daily have polarized the country between those who support the President’s quick and dirty methods of dealing with drugs and crime and those who regard them as illegal, immoral, and self-defeating.
Bello appealed to President Duterte to stop the extra-judicial killings and restore the rule of law and due process.