MANILA- Member-states of the United Nations should denounce President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs and urge the Philippines to support an international probe on the killings, international non-government organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
“UN member countries should urge the Philippines to support an international investigation into the killings, given the Philippine government’s own failure to impartially investigate or prosecute those responsible,” HRW said in a statement released Thursday.
The statement comes ahead of the Philippines’ appearance for the third cycle of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on May 8 in Geneva.
This year’s review will cover the last 4 years of the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III until the present administration.
“The UN review of the Philippines is critical because of the sheer magnitude of the human rights calamity since President Duterte took office last year,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
More than 7,000 people have been reported killed since Duterte assumed presidency last year. Of this figure, the government only takes responsibility for about one-third of the deaths which they say resulted from legitimate police operations. The other two-thirds however were reported killed vigilante-style or are deaths that are still under investigation.
HRW alleged that Duterte has instigated police and incited vigilantes to kill suspected drug peddlers and users in his anti-drug campaign.
“He (Duterte) has ignored calls for an official probe into these killings. Instead, he has praised the killings as proof of the ‘success’ of the ‘drug war’ and urged police to ‘seize the momentum’,” HRW said.
The organization added that it has documented the existence of police-linked death squads in several cities, including Duterte’s hometown, Davao City, where he served as mayor for more than 2 decades.
HRW also claims law enforcers in the country continue to commit torture against persons in custody despite the passage of the Anti-Torture Act in 2009.
“There is evidence that the military engages in torture of civil society activists and alleged insurgents in its custody,” the organization said.
Tribal and environmental groups, according to the HRW, have also accused the military of using local guerrillas to help clear ancestral areas for mining companies and business interests.
Other human rights violations alleged by the organization are documented policies designed to “derail” the full enforcement of the country’s Reproductive Health Law, and child labor.
The Supreme Court in 2015 issued a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the RH law. HRW claims the halt order threatens to render obsolete contraceptives already procured by the government since these would expire in 2018.
HRW also criticized the Catholic Church for being “hostile” to sexual health education and condom use which the group claimed are “obstacles” to condom access, HIV testing, and inadequate educational HIV prevention efforts.
Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News