The world is watching
A moment of convergence seems to be happening as calls for accountability over President Duterte’s war on drugs are being made by various quarters in the international community at about the same time, making the concerted denunciations more difficult to drown out despite the irate reactions from Malacañang.
Earlier this week, Amnesty International (AI) issued a damning report that described Mr. Duterte’s 3-year-old centerpiece domestic policy as “nothing but a large-scale murdering enterprise for which the poor continue to pay the highest price.”
It spoke of police “operating with total impunity as they murder people from poor neighbourhoods whose names appear on manufactured ‘drug watch lists’ established outside of any legal process.”
The Philippine National Police has pegged the official number of deaths of “drug personalities” at 6,600 from July 2016 to the end of May 2019, or an average of six a day. But AI said it was “impossible” to determine the true extent of the carnage “due to the government’s tactics of deliberate obfuscation and misinformation.”
AI said every police operation it examined showed the police citing the same “buy-bust” justification that “doesn’t meet the feeblest standards of credibility.” As a forensic expert put it to the group, this justification “is so consistent, it’s a script.”
The London-based independent institution thus called on the United Nations to “immediately open an investigation into gross human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity committed as part of the ‘war on drugs.’”
AI’s report came just days after 27 nations, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, backed a draft Iceland resolution urging the 47-member UN Human Rights Council to prepare “a comprehensive written report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.”
The resolution also prodded the Philippine government to “take all necessary measures to prevent extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and enforced disappearances” and conduct “impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable in accordance with international norms and standards including the process and rule of law.”
The climate of impunity that has seen a “staggering” number of “unlawful deaths and police killings,” according to an earlier call by 11 UN independent special rapporteurs, has placed the Philippines near the top of a discreditable list: A new analysis by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (Acled) said the country is now the fourth most dangerous place in the world for civilians, next only to India and conflict-ridden Syria and Yemen.
The US-based Acled, which monitors incidents of political violence and protest around the world, reported last week that violence against civilians in the Philippines “has continued unabated through the first half of 2019,” and that the deaths of some 490 civilians since the start of the year confirm “a wave of targeted attacks” traced directly to the antidrug campaign.
“President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ has driven this violence,” declared Acled.
It’s not, in fact, only international watchdogs that have expressed such concerns. The Supreme Court has a standing order for the turnover of all documents relating to EJKs to legal groups that, along with other valiant local organizations, have been at the forefront of the fight against the worst excesses of Mr. Duterte’s flagship campaign. But as AI Philippines’ Butch Olano pointed out, the PNP has yet to comply satisfactorily with the Court’s directive.
The Duterte administration has been typically apoplectic in response to these developments; presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo called AI “incorrigible” and accused it of bias and prejudice.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., meanwhile, in a sign of the seriousness with which this administration looks at the issue, made an outlandish claim on Twitter: “If the Iceland resolution wins that means bonuses for everyone who worked for it — from the drug cartels.”
That is all, apparently, that the administration is willing to do — rip into international observers, accuse them of collusion with drug syndicates (the usual smear tactic against Filipino critics and dissenters) to duck and deflect the hard questions, instead of looking at how the war has claimed thousands of Filipino lives, and whether that grave cost justifies keeping the President’s pet project alive.
True to form, the Duterte administration will hiss and curse and foam at the mouth in defiance — but as the body count continues to rise, the world is watching, keeping close tabs.
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