UN rights chief says Duterte drug war without regard for due process, human rights

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 30) — The United Nations’ human rights chief found “serious human rights violations” in the conduct of the Philippines’ bloody war on drugs.

“The campaign against illegal drugs is 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,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in her report to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

“The killings have been widespread and systematic – and they are ongoing,” she added.

Bachelet presented findings from her comprehensive review of the Philippines’ human rights situation, an investigation that was called for by 18 member states of the council in July 2019. She noted that the Philippine government did not allow her office to visit and that she used information submitted by local organizations and the state.

Extrajudicial killings and other abuses were a result of the country’s anti-drug policies, Bachelet said, coupled with an “incitement to violence from the highest levels of government.”

Local and international human rights groups have flagged thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings resulting from President Rodrigo Duterte's public pronouncements. Malacañang has repeatedly said there are no state-sanctioned killings.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told the council that an inter-agency panel chaired by his office is looking into all 5,655 anti-drug operations that resulted in deaths. He said the Philippine National Police conducts its own investigations, but the panel reevaluates the cases. The panel will release a report in November, he said.

“Claims that there is impunity or near impunity in the country find no anchor in a system that provides every avenue to examine, establish and pursue a claim of wrongdoing by a state actor if such claim is substantiated with facts,” Guevarra said.

Bachelet, however, is not ready to drop her case. She urged the 47-member council to “remain active and vigilant” by mandating her office to continue monitoring and reporting on the Philippines’ human rights situation.

“It is not enough to argue that the Government’s heavy-handed policies remain popular in the country. Because victims tend to be from lower socio-economic classes and relatively disempowered communities, there is an even stronger imperative to ensure their protection. We must not let them down,” she added.

She also called on the Philippine government to strengthen its accountability mechanism, improve data gathering on alleged police violations, review its policies, and coordinate with civil society.

"In the absence of clear and measurable outcomes from domestic mechanism, the council should consider options for international accountability measures," she stressed.

Guevarra, who joined the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council via video conferencing, banked on widespread public support of the drug war, adding that due diligence must be exercised to validate allegations against the controversial anti-drug campaign.