Philippines Rejects Concerns Aired by 39 Countries in Drug-War

Felipe Villamor
170929-PH-drugs-620.jpg An alleged drug dealer is captured by policemen after a drug buy-bust operation on a slum area in Manila, Sept. 28, 2017.

The Philippines on Friday rejected expressions of concern raised by 39 nations led by the United States about the country’s bloody war on drugs, insisting that accusations of extrajudicial killings were hearsay unless proven in court.

The Philippine government’s reaction came after the mostly Western nations, including Britain, Canada and Australia, issued a statement in Geneva expressing serious concern over thousands of victims slain in President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal anti-drugs campaign.

According to the national police, more than 12,800 homicide cases, including over 3,000 people killed by police in anti-drug operations, have been recorded since Duterte came to office in June last year.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, in a statement, said that the 39 countries have refused to “understand certain aspects” of the government’s rights efforts and that “no culture of impunity” was present in the Philippines.

“The truth is, our justice system does not tolerate any state-sponsored extrajudicial killings,” Abella said.

“All these accusations of extrajudicial killings and circumventing police procedures should be proven in a competent court and, if found meritorious, should result in appropriate sanctions against the perpetrators,” he said. “Failing these, such claims are mere hearsay.”

While Manila welcomed help from other countries over the situation, it would, however, “never accept dictation on how we are managing our own internal domestic processes,” he said.

Serious concerns

Abella gave his reaction after the United States and 38 other U.N. members issued a statement on Thursday at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that the human rights situation in the Philippines “continues to be of serious concern.”

“We remain concerned about the thousands of killings and climate of impunity associated with the war on drugs,” the statement said.

“We urge the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to bring these killings to an end and cooperate with the international community to pursue appropriate investigations into these incidents, in keeping with universal principles of democratic accountability and the rule of law,” it said.

It cited “intimidations” against human rights defenders, including journalists, who are investigating the killings, but did not elaborate. It also called on the government to allow the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary killings be allowed to investigate in the Philippines “without preconditions or limitations.”

Since assuming power last year, the 72-year-old Duterte had launched a heavy-handed campaign against drugs.

He had vowed to turn Manila Bay into a dumping ground for dead pushers and addicts, and his public speeches had captivated an electorate demanding change in one of Asia’s most corrupt and crime-riddled societies.

And he has done just that.

A year into his six year term, the figures are staggering, compared to more than 3,000 activists killed during the two-decade authoritarian rule of Ferdinand Marcos that was ended by a “people power” revolt in 1986.

A survey released Wednesday by the respected Social Weather Stations indicated that a majority of Filipinos were not convinced of the official police accounts in the drug-related killings, with about 54 percent of people polled expressing doubts that those killed had violently resisted arrest, as police claimed.

The recent brutal deaths of three teenagers at the hands of the police have also served to galvanize opposition to Duterte’s drug war, which rights monitors argue has victimized innocent civilians, including children.

Duterte has repeatedly shown during televised news conferences a list of 150 judges, politicians as well as police and military personnel he has accused of being involved in drugs.

Three mayors in that list have been violently gunned down.


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