The United States will continue to keep a critical eye on President Rodrigo Duterte’s supposedly infamous war on drugs, a US official said on Friday.
Andrews said the US “remains committed to human rights,” which are continuously linked to the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the Philippine President.
“Essentially, I know programs in the Philippines focus on drug prevention and treatment services and justice reform, professional development, law enforcement,” he added.
The US official recognized the country’s focus on the strengthening of the rule of law, but with “respect to human rights.”
Andrews disclosed that he and his Philippine government counterparts had discussed various topics, including combating of illegal drugs.
Additionally, he said, they talked about criminal justice engagement, criminal law reform, reform on investigation and prosecution method, criminal justice program and enhancement of legal aid services for “Filipino citizens to have more access to justice.”
According to Andrews, reducing demand for narcotics was also tackled in the discussion.
Recently, Amnesty International released a 45-page report that said the Philippines had reached the “threshold of crimes humanity” and urged the United Nations “to hold President Duterte and his government accountable.”
What followed was the passage of an Iceland-led United Nations (UN) resolution, particularly by the UN Human Rights Council, seeking a report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, including extrajudicial killings (EJKs).
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde had dismissed claims about summary executions by human rights organizations, saying the declarations were “politically motivated.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, former PNP head who was said to have started the drug crackdown, said he would chop his head off if it was proven that the supposed EJKs in the country are state-sponsored.
From July 1, 2016 to June 30 this year, 134,583 drug operations were conducted, 193,086 drug suspects arrested and 5,526 died in anti-drug operations based on data of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
“We’re so focused on the death of Kian,” Undersecretary Severo Catura, executive director of Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS), said, adding that the media had been focusing on deaths.
Kian is Kian Loyd de los Santos, a teenaged Caloocan City drug suspect who was shot dead by policemen that had arrested him.
In November 2018, three of the accused were each sentenced to 30 to 40 years in prison for the death of the de los Santos.
Catura pointed out that there were also police officers killed in the drug operations.
In the three years of the Duterte drug war, 681 government workers were arrested — 323 government officials, 282 elected officials and 76 uniformed personnel.
The PNP Internal Affairs Services has reported that there were already 4,583 motu proprio (automatic) investigations, 14,724 cases filed against PNP officers and personnel, 3,619 elevated to summary hearing proceedings, 352 undergoing pre-charge investigations and 588 cases dropped and closed.
Moreover, 2,385 children aged 4 to 17 involved in illegal drug activities were rescued. A total of 7, 867 administrative cases were resolved — 4,100 suspended, 472 demoted, 2,367 dismissed from the service, 617 were reprimanded, 195 forfeited salary, 75 withholding of privileges and 41 restricted as of May 20 this year.
Out of 42,045 barangay (villages) in the country, 13,753 have been cleared of drugs while 19,215 are yet to be cleared.
Also, 348 was the total number of dismantled dens and clandestine laboratories while 421,275 went to Recovery and Wellness Program — 219, 979 were PNP-initiated and 201,296 were supported community centers.
The value of seized drugs and laboratory equipment was P34.75 billion and the total value of shabu seized P25.99 billion.
The United Nations was also urged, this time by detained Sen. Leila de Lima, to probe the deaths of land and environmental activists in the Philippines.
Also on Friday, she said the “unprecedented” killings have made the Philippines “the deadliest country in the world for land rights defenders.”
De Lima, who is held on drug charges, noted that the recent killings of the land and environmental activists added to the “urgency to open an independent investigation due to the continued injustices and government neglect being experienced under the present administration.”
“The growing number of unresolved deaths in the country involving land and environmental activists, who died fighting for their own rights and legitimate interests, is a very serious matter that warrants the United Nation’s utmost attention,” she said.
A recent report by London-based international watchdog Global Witness revealed that the Philippines was now the deadliest country in the world for land and environment defenders.
Of the 164 farmers and land rights activists reportedly killed worldwide in 2018, the report showed that the Philippines accounted for 30 casualties.
De Lima noted that in Negros province alone, human rights group Karapatan registered at least 41 people who were killed, including civilians, rights defenders, activists and farmers from November 2018 to July 28, 2019.
WITH REPORT FROM BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO