Address human rights abuses, UN urged

The subject matter itself, crimes against humanity, it does not fall — the Philippine situation does not fall under that category to begin with

A human rights group strongly urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to adopt a strong resolution addressing the dire human rights situation in the Philippines during its 51st session which started Monday.

In a policy paper submitted to UN member states, Human Rights Watch said that extrajudicial killings in the Philippine government’s “war on drugs” still occur on a regular basis.

Dahas, a program of the Third World Studies Center of the University of the Philippines, has reported 72 drug-related killings after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office on 30 June.

Official government figures indicate that the police killed 71 people since August 2021, bringing the total number of killings reported by the police between July 2016 and May 2022 to 6,252. President Marcos has not repudiated abuses in the “drug war,” which he said he would continue.

This runs counter to the claim of Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra last week that the drug war killings under former President Rodrigo Duterte did not constitute “crimes against humanity.”

With this, the government reinforced an earlier request for the International Criminal Court to reject a motion to resume the probe on the Philippines.

Three arguments were raised by Guevarra during his interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source, which the government, through the Office of the Solicitor General, indicated as reasons against the investigation.

Guevarra said the ICC only has jurisdiction over certain crimes like genocide, crime of aggression, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. But in order for a crime against humanity to take place, there must be a widespread or “systematic attack against civilian population,” he said.

“The subject matter itself, crimes against humanity, it does not fall — the Philippine situation does not fall under that category to begin with,” Guevarra said.

In the country›s comment submitted to the pre-trial chamber of the ICC last Thursday, the government said the drug war killings do not qualify as an attack against the civilian population.

Guevarra even noted that the anti-drug campaign is a “legitimate law enforcement operation.”

But the Human Rights Watch maintained that UN member states should not be fooled by the baseless claims from the new Philippine government that the rights situation has suddenly improved,” said Lucy McKernan, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch.

“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.”

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calculated in its report to the Council that the death toll was at least 8,663.

Domestic human rights groups and the government appointed Philippines Commission on Human Rights state that the real figure of “drug war” killings is possibly triple the number reported in the OHCHR report.

Since the “drug war” began in July 2016 under former President Rodrigo Duterte, the authorities have investigated very few killings implicating the police or alleged government agents.

Only 12 police officers have been indicted and only one case, the video-recorded murder of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos in August 2017, resulted in the conviction of police officers.

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