Human Rights Watch: PH gov’t drug war worsened amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 9)— Atrocities under the Philippine government’s flagship anti-drug campaign have worsened during the lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an international human rights group.

In a report published on Wednesday, the Human Rights Watch, citing government statistics, said that drug war-linked deaths have risen in the past few months, even with the country still grappling with the coronavirus crisis.

In its report, the HRW said drug-linked killings from the period of April to July 2020— when strict community quarantine measures were imposed— were 50 percent higher compared to the previous four-month period.

Specifically, the New York-based organization found 155 persons were killed in the past four months. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, 103 people were killed from December 2019 to March 2020.

“As the government’s own statistics show, the atrocities in the “drug war” have worsened, even as the country suffers the worst in the region from the pandemic,” the HRW said.

Latest government data shows 5,810 people have died during anti-drug operations since July 2016, when President Rodrigo Duterte took office, while over 251,000 individuals have also been arrested under the administration's drug war.

Local and international rights groups, however, say thousands more have died in extrajudicial killings, a claim the government has repeatedly denied.