MANILA, Philippines – International watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Saturday, September 9 said the deaths of teenagers in the country in recent weeks highlighted the need for a United Nations (UN) inquiry into the Philippines' drug war.
"These killings demonstrate that Duterte's rejection of the rule of law has made all Filipinos potential 'drug-war' victims, no matter how young," HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said in the statement.
According to Caloocan police, 17-year-old Delos Santos was killed in a drug raid in his neighborhood on August 16. Delos Santos allegedly shot at the cops, prompting them to retaliate.
But according to the Public Attorney's Office and the National Bureau of Investigation, the evidence showed that Delos Santos was murdered. (READ: Kian and Carl: What the deaths of two boys have in common)
De Guzman, 14, was last seen with another slain teenager, Carl Arnaiz. The two went missing on the evening of August 17.
Arnaiz allegedly robbed a taxi driver along C3 Road in Navotas early on August 18, then was killed in a supposed shootout with Caloocan City police. The PAO forensic team, however, said that the crime scene where Arnaiz was killed was apparently "staged."
De Guzman's lifeless body was found floating in a creek in Gapan City, Nueva Ecija on Tuesday, September 5. He had 30 stab wounds, and his head was wrapped with packing tape.
The HRW noted that packing tape "has been a gruesome hallmark of many drug-war killings" under the current administration
"The killings of Delos Santos and De Guzman bring to at least 54 the number of children killed by police and 'unidentified gunmen' in the 'war on drugs' since July 2016, according to data from the Children's Legal Rights and Development Center," the HRW said.
'Concerted action by UN crucial'
The New York-based organization noted major concerns about the "willingness and capacity" of government authorities "to conduct thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations" into killings related to the drug war.
"Concerted action by the UN Human Rights Council to address Duterte's abusive drug war is crucial. The council should press the Philippines government to accept an independent international investigation into all allegations of extrajudicial killings and to hold those responsible to account," the HRW said.
It also urged the UN Human Rights Council to press the government to cooperate with Agnes Callamard, the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, to grant her "unfettered and unconditional access," and to immediately stop "all official incitement and instigation of drug war killings."
"A fundamental obligation of every government is to protect the lives of its children, not to empower police and their agents to murder them," Kine said.
He added: "Until Duterte ends his abusive drug war and allows a UN-led international probe, child-killers among the police will continue to get away with murder." – Rappler.com