THE New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday called on United Nations (UN) member-countries to denounce the Philippines’ brutal “war on drugs” that has killed more than 7,000 people since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016.
The HRW said UN member-countries should urge the Philippines to allow an international investigation into the killings, given the government’s failure to impartially investigate or prosecute those responsible.
“The UN review of the Philippines is critical because of the sheer magnitude of the human rights calamity since President Duterte took office last year,” said Phelim Kine, HRW deputy Asia director, said. “Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ has been nothing less than a murderous war on the poor.”
The Philippine delegation, led by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, will appear for the third cycle of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review on May 8 in Geneva.
In the review scheme, the human rights progress of each UN member-country is examined every four years. Members and observers of the UN Human Rights Council will raise the Philippines’ past human rights pledges and new concerns.
Immediately after the UN review of the Philippines on May 8, HRW will moderate a side event in Geneva, co-hosted with other nongovernment organizations, to assess the review and the Philippine delegation’s responses.
Human Rights Watch, in its submission to the UN in September 2016, said the Philippines needed to account for extrajudicial killings, cases of torture and disappearances, the rights of indigenous peoples, the enforcement of reproductive health rights and children’s and actions to stem HIV-AIDS.
Cayetano: Facts, context needed
Cayetano clarified that the period under review covers five years of the Aquino administration and 10 months of the Duterte administration. The previous reviews of the Philippines were in 2008 and 2012.
“Human rights issues were raised by various sectors not just in this administration,” he said in a statement.
The senator said the UN review would be the perfect opportunity to “dispel serious concerns of the international community about the alleged human rights violations of the present administration and other challenges in the law enforcement and judicial system in the country.”
“There are a lot of facts that need to be clarified and put in proper context so our friends in the United Nations and the international community will understand the extent of problems of corruption, illegal drugs, and criminality in the Philippines,” he said.
“We want to share the overall picture of our human-rights based development programs, especially our gains, priorities in the coming years, as well as the major challenges at hand,” he added.
The Philippine Delegation will also discuss the government’s policies on labor, the environment and vulnerable sectors such as women, children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly in the country.
The Philippine delegation includes representatives from the Presidential Human Rights Committee, a deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Presidential Communications Office, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Philippine National Police, Department of Social Welfare and Development, the National Economic Development Authority, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.