GENEVA: Countries across the world put the Philippines on notice over its deadly drug war on Monday, demanding an end to extrajudicial killings by President Rodrigo Duterte’s security services.
Diplomats from all continents condemned the reported surge of deaths during so-called anti-drug operations, which have claimed thousands of lives since Duterte took office last year.
The Philippines was facing its regular review at the Geneva-based UN human rights council, where each country’s record is scrutinized every four years.
Monday’s session was especially “critical because of the sheer magnitude of the human rights calamity” since Duterte’s inauguration, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
The meeting began with Senator Alan Cayetano denouncing what he called a campaign by rights advocates and the media to distort perceptions of the government’s anti-drug effort.
“There is no new wave of killings in the Philippines,” Cayetano said, adding that the government’s enemies were using “a political tactic” of manipulating figures on extrajudicial killings to undermine the fight against a scourge that has poisoned Filipino society.
Canada called on Manila to “end extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and detention, torture and harassment.”
Delegations from Australia, Brazil, France, Germany and Ghana, among others, made identical calls.
China however offered support to the Filipino firebrand, declaring drugs “the public enemy of mankind.”
Committed to change
Cayetano assured the UN council that the Philippine government is committed to protecting human rights and fundamental freedom.
Duterte, he added, is committed to real change and reforms.
“At all times, the Duterte administration seeks to uphold the rule of law. In fact, President Duterte has a policy of zero tolerance for abuse by law enforcers,” the senator said in his opening statement.
The Philippine delegation presented what it called “true facts and real numbers” on the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
It claimed that killings in the country during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd ranged from a low of 11,000 to a high of 16,000 per year.
But the killings were not reported because some of the critics of the Duterte Administration, including the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), a senator and local media changed the definition of extrajudicial killings, thus deceiving the public and foreign media into believing that there was a sudden wave of state-sponsored killings when Duterte took office, Cayetano said.
Malacañang on Monday expressed confidence that the Philippine delegation will be able to “demolish” the black propaganda against Duterte.
In a media intrerview, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the Philippine team is armed with “sufficient facts and figures” and not “inaccurate” news reports.
“I think the UN will receive in open arms and mindedness the evidence that will be presented. I think the delegation has sufficient facts and figures to demolish whatever black propaganda that the critics have sown against the President,” Panelo told reporters.
“The facts and figures speak for themselves. They are there and the report coming from newspapers are not really that accurate. After all, the newspapers are also being provided with the wrong information, so newspapers would have to report with what information they receive,” he added.
The President’s lawyer said he is hopeful for an improved worldview on the country’s war on drugs after the Philippine team presents its case before the UN.
“Hopefully, it should [change perceptions on drug war].
It must. Because the evidence speak for itself,” he added.
Cayetano was joined by Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Presidential Human Rights Committee Undersecretary Severo Catura, and Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Evan Garcia.