Group tells ICC: Drug-related killings, abuse continued amid the pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 13) — More pieces of evidence were presented to the International Criminal Court to support the case against President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

The Rise Up for Life, represented by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said in its third supplemental pleading that the administration’s controversial anti-illegal drugs campaign continued to cause deaths and abuse amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Citing non-government organization Amnesty International, “[r]eports of drug-related killings continuing amid the lockdown order are deeply concerning, but not surprising”.

“The climate of impunity in the Philippines is so entrenched that police and others remain free to kill without consequence,” it added.

Moreover, local government units also used the “house-to-house" visitations of the said campaign, which is only based on hearsay, to search for people who are infected and force them to be transferred to government isolation centers.

These kinds of operations only make people living in poor urban areas at risk of police abuses “considering how the police and local government officials have severely trampled on the rights and dignities of those who failed to abide by the quarantine and curfew regulations.”

As thousands of Filipinos get arrested, 71% of which charged with drug-related cases, the country’s prison system has already reached its “breaking point” after a virus outbreak occurred in one of the most congested jails located in Cebu City, it added.

The group also cited the report of the United Nations’ Human Rights Office in June 2020 that revealed that only 1.2% of the drug operations done by the Philippine National Police from July 1, 2016 to November 30, 2017 were based on arrest warrant. Discrepancy on the total number people killed was also pointed out with official figures saying 8,663, but the foreign body also acknowledged that some estimates put the real count at 27,000.

The UN Human Rights Council also found out that post-operational reports contained “strikingly similar if not verbatim language and repeatedly mentioned the same serial numbers of guns” allegedly used in different locations by drug suspects when they resisted authorities.

The PNP has also consistently refused to disclose documents related to the killings to the Supreme Court and the Commission on Human Rights, and even insisted that its internal affairs service has investigated such matters. The UN agency revealed that only one of the 4,583 investigations “done” by the said PNP office led to the arrest of three police officers due to availability of camera footage related to the case.

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Rise Up for Life also included Duterte’s warning to ICC’s outgoing chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda back in 2018, threatening to arrest her if she sets foot in the country to investigate the campaign. The group said this action is equal to impeding the practice of duties and administration of justice.