Watchdog calls for ‘strong resolution’ as drug-related human rights violations continue in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to adopt a “strong resolution,” as it claims that extrajudicial killings in the Philippine government’s war on drugs continue even under the Marcos administration.

“UN member states should not be fooled by the baseless claims from the new Philippine government that the rights situation has suddenly improved,” HRW Geneva director Lucy McKernan said in a statement on Monday. 

When asked about HRW’s alegation in a press briefing, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles declined to comment.

Last week, the Philippine government asked the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) pre-trial chamber to deny the request for the resumption of the probe into the Duterte administration’s bloody war against illegal drugs. 

The government noted that the reported murder incidents “do not constitute ‘crimes against humanity,’ considering that said incidents do not qualify as an ‘attack’ against the civilian population.”

In a policy paper submitted to member-states of the UNHRC on Sept. 8, HRW cited a program run by the Third World Studies Center of the University of the Philippines that reported 72 drug-related killings after President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. took office on June 30. 

Government data, meanwhile, showed that the police killed 71 people since August 2021, bringing the total number of killings reported by authorities between July 2016 and May 2022 to 6,252, the watchdog noted.

“Continued UN scrutiny of the Philippines is vitally important because ‘drug war’ killings are still common and police impunity for rights violations remains the norm,” McKernan said.

HRW said the resolution it is pushing should include continued capacity building by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the request for continued reporting on the situation in the Philippines.

It said this should urge the Philippine government to announce the end of the drug war and to prioritize accountability for the unlawful killings.

A truth commission should also be formed which will gather testimonies of witnesses and victims, and formulate recommendations about justice and reparations, HRW said.

The human rights watchdog also called for a stop to the red-tagging of activists and critics of the government, as well as the harassment of journalists and activists with threats of arrests or criminal libel cases.

HRW also urged government to include in the resolution dropping all charges and releasing detained former senator Leila de Lima.

“Appoint new members of the Commission on Human Rights who are independent of government and have demonstrated expertise in human rights and ensure that the process of their selection is transparent and inclusive,” HRW said, noting that the commission should also involve human rights groups and other civil society organizations (CSO).

The resolution should call on Philippine authorities to facilitate the participation of CSOs in the UN Joint Program, the group added.