UN: Philippine drug war probe lacks transparency


THE PHILIPPINE government’s investigation of human rights violations in connection with its deadly war on drugs lacks transparency, according to the United Nations (UN) Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights

In a 16-page report dated Sept. 6 and uploaded to the UN Human Rights Council’s website on Sept. 13, the commissioner said the Philippines should conduct prompt and transparent probes and provide remedies to victims’ families.

“Transparency and public scrutiny in investigative processes and outcomes remain a challenge,” it said. The UN also cited the continued red-tagging and arbitrary detention of human rights workers that could erode trust between the government and civil society members.

Still, it recognized the efforts of the government’s inter-agency task force that formed 15 teams last year to probe extralegal killings.

“The government took some initiatives to advance accountability for human rights violations and abuses,” the UN office said. “However, access to justice for victims of human rights violations and abuses remained very limited.”

The UN council is holding its 51st regular session on Sept. 12 to Oct. 7 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The presidential palace had not received a copy of the UN report, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said in reply to a Viber message seeking comment.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday called on member states of the UN council to pass a resolution that will expand human rights monitoring in the Philippines.

The global watchdog said human rights violations from the previous administration’s anti-drug campaign continue under President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.

Citing a joint study by the University of the Philippines and Belgium’s Ghent University, Human Rights Watch said there have been 221 drug-related killings from January to August this year.

The Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) last month said it would submit a report on human rights issues in the country to the UN rights council. CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann C. de Guia told a news briefing on Aug. 11 that they were consulting civic and grassroots groups on the UN’s mechanism to assess the human rights situation in the country.

Last week, Philippine Solicitor General Menardo I. Guevarra asked the International Criminal Court to dismiss the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s plea to continue its drug war probe, saying it does not have the authority to do so.

He said the alleged murders of drug suspects in police raids were not crimes against humanity because these were not “attacks against the civilian population.”

“We have our own accountability mechanisms in place and these are all functioning as they should,” Mr. Guevarra, who was Mr. Duterte’s Justice secretary, said in a Viber message.

The Hague-based tribunal gave the Philippines until Sept. 8 to comment on the request to resume its probe of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

In June, ICC Prosecutor Karim Ahmad A. Khan asked the ICC’s pre-trial chamber to reopen the probe since the Philippines had allegedly failed to show it had investigated crimes related to the campaign. 

He said the chamber should issue an order on an “expedited basis.” It should “receive any further observations it considers appropriate from victims and the government of the Philippines,” he added.

The ICC, which tries people charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression, suspended its probe of Mr. Duterte’s deadly war on drugs last year upon the Philippine government’s request.

Only 21% or 62,000 of 291,000 drug cases filed have led to convictions, Interior Secretary Benjamin C. Abalos said in July, citing police data from 2016 to 2022.

The Department of Justice has brought five of the 52 cases involving 150 police officers to court since it started its own probe last year.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla earlier said many of the cases involving erring cops did not progress due to a lack of witnesses.

Philippine police have said they have killed about 6,000 people in illegal drug raids, many of them resisting arrest. Human rights advocates have placed the death toll at more than 27,000.

The CHR said the Duterte government had encouraged a culture of impunity by hindering independent inquires and by failing to prosecute erring cops involved in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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