Palace disputes HRW drug findings

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Malacañang on Friday slammed a report recently released by an international human rights group, which said President Rodrigo Duterte triggered a “human rights calamity” as he waged a bloody war on drugs during his first year in power.

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In a news conference, Presidential Communications Secretary Ana Maria Paz Banaag said the government’s war against illegal drugs cannot be considered a human rights calamity as it seeks to protect the people.

“We don’t feel good about the comments of the Human Rights Watch [HRW] report but we also have to be firm that and we have to realize that the President stood and won on a platform of genuine change. He wanted a better life for the Filipino people, of course,” Banaag told reporters.

She said the HRW should acknowledge the number of drug dependents that had surrendered to authorities and subject themselves to a rehabilitation program.

“Human Rights Watch should not brush aside all the programs especially the enforcement side. How many operations had been conducted by the enforcement agencies and anti-drug agencies? It is not a joke to enforce 62,000 anti-drug operations. That’s so much sacrifice and of course also we have around 1.3 million drug surrenderers. These things, the government is doing something about this through the inter-agency committee against illegal drugs,” Banaag added.

She assured the public that the Duterte administration was working to address alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.

“The government is not sitting down, watching lives being wasted just this way. So with this one, of course, we say that the President had only wanted so much for his countrymen,” Banaag said.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch, in a statement, said Duterte has “unleashed a human rights calamity on the Philippines in his first year in office.”

“President Duterte took office promising to protect human rights but has instead spent his first year in office as a boisterous instigator for an unlawful killing campaign,” Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.

“Duterte has supported and incited ‘drug war’ killings while retaliating against those fearless enough to challenge his assault on human rights,” Kine added.

Human Rights Watch cited its field research in March, which found that “government claims that the deaths of suspected drug users and dealers were lawful were blatant falsehoods. Interviews with witnesses and victims’ relatives and analysis of police records expose a pattern of unlawful police conduct designed to paint a veneer of legality over extrajudicial executions that may amount to crimes against humanity.”

Official data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) pegged the total number of homicide cases at 9,432 from July 2016 to March 2017.

Of this number, 1,847 deaths were said to be drug-related, while 1,894 were not.

The remaining 5,691 cases, approximately 60 percent of the total figure, were still under investigation.
Duterte’s anti-narcotics drive has also resulted in a 26.45 percent drop in the estimated total drug market and 28.57 percent reduction in index crime, according to the PNP data.

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