UN rights chief: Revoke PH policies, rhetoric that lead to killings and abuses

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — The head of a United Nations panel on human rights is calling for an end to Philippine policies that were said to have led to killings and human rights violations in the bloody war on drugs.

At the opening of the UN Human Rights Council's 45th session in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed concern about the abuses across several countries, including the drug-related killings in the Philippines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her report to the council in June, Bachelet flagged the "widespread and systematic" killings which she said were "being carried out without due regard for the rule of law, due process, and the human rights of people who may be using or selling drugs." The Philippines' Justice Department subsequently said that an inter-agency panel has been looking into all the 5,655 anti-drug operations that resulted in deaths.

Bachelet said her office is seeking details from the Philippine government “so we can advise and assess” the scope, process, and efficacy of the review panel.

“However, beyond this initial process, there is clearly an urgent need to revoke the policies that continue to result in killings and other human rights violations, to bring to justice the perpetrators, and to halt the use of rhetoric inciting violence against people who use or sell drugs,” Bachelet said.

Local and international human rights groups say President Rodrigo Duterte's public pronouncements have resulted in thousands more extrajudicial killings. But Malacañang has repeatedly denied this, saying there are no state-sanctioned killings and any abuse will be investigated and prosecuted by local courts.

READ: 62 groups ask UN for independent probe on PH killings, human rights abuses

Bachelet said her office will continue to monitor the situation in the Philippines and cooperate with the government, the independent constitutional body Commission on Human Rights, civil society groups and the UN system so its recommendations can be implemented, including the call to strengthen the country’s accountability mechanism.

Aside from the drug war, Bachelet also sounded the alarm over the harassment, threats, and violence against journalists, activists and critics of the administration, the passage of the “problematic” Anti-Terrorism Act, and Duterte’s renewed call for the revival of death penalty.