President Rodrigo Duterte’s top lawyer slammed Amnesty International (AI) for its report on alleged “massive human rights violations” in the government’s war on drugs.
In a statement, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said AI may have taken the country’s national issues “out of context” in its report.
“With respect to the Philippines, AI noted the alleged thousands of unlawful killings by police and other armed individuals as part of the government’s anti-drugs campaign, purported threats to freedom of expression, the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and its extension in December, and the government’s attempt to reintroduce the death penalty. AI may have taken these issues out of context,” Panelo said.
“It has been the adamant stance of the President to protect the lives of innocent people from the dangerous effects of illegal drugs. Hence, as a result of the government’s anti-drugs campaign, millions of drug pushers and users have voluntarily surrendered to police authorities,” he added.
In its annual report entitled “The State of the World’s Human Rights,” AI said the government, particularly President Duterte and his allies, are targeting only the human rights defenders.
It also said the administration has yet to conduct a “meaningful investigation” into the killing of drug suspects, especially in the cases where policemen were involved.
“Meaningful investigations into killings of alleged drugs offenders failed to take place; no police officers were known to have been held to account. Relatives of victims continued to be fearful of reprisals if they filed complaints against police,” the report said.
The group also cited the killing of teenagers Kian Loyd de los Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz in Caloocan City in August 2017.
But Panelo maintained that there were no extrajudicial killings under the government’s drug war and that the police killed drug suspects in self-defense.
“As for the spate of killings, there is no such thing as state-sponsored since the police has been following the strict protocols in arresting these drug-related criminals. The true cause of this is that members of the drug syndicates are killing each other to prevent their competitors from informing the authorities which may lead to their arrest,” he said.
“While the President told the police officers that if they will do their job, they will have ‘the unwavering support of the Office of the President,’ he was also categorical that they should not resort to extra-judicial killings or abuse their authority,” he added.
Panelo added that Duterte “does not prohibit journalists and critics from speaking their views on the policies and programs of this administration.”
“Contrary to AI’s Report, protests and demonstrations, whether for or against the polices of the administration, are prevalent now more than ever, showing that democracy is very much alive in the country. The right to freedom of expression should not be indiscriminately invoked when the executive branch is merely performing its duty in enforcing the law of our land,” he added.
Panelo also assured the public that the Philippines would take active participation in the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights which provides a framework for human rights cooperation and consultation between Asean member states in advancing Asean’s aspiration to be a rules-based, people-oriented and people-centered community.