Rights violations continue under Marcos, UN told

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

HUMAN rights violations in connection with the Philippines’ anti-illegal drug campaign continue under the government of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., Human Rights Watch told the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council on Monday.

Based on a copy of a policy paper sent to the UN, the global watchdog said extralegal killings under former President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign continue to this day.

“UN member states should not be fooled by the baseless claims from the new Philippine government that the rights situation has suddenly improved,” Human Rights Watch Geneva Director Lucy McKernan said.

“Continued UN scrutiny of the Philippines is vitally important because ‘drug war’ killings are still common and police impunity for rights violations remains the norm,” she added.

“No comment, no reaction,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles told a news briefing streamed live on PTV 4’s Facebook page.

The global human rights group called on member states of the UN council to pass a resolution that will expand human rights monitoring in the Philippines.

Citing a joint study by the University of the Philippines and Belgium’s Ghent University, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said there have been 221 drug-related killings from January to August this year.

“UN member states should make sure they don’t drop the ball on the Philippines and instead strengthen the Human Rights Council’s efforts to improve human rights in the country,” Ms. McKernan said.

The Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) last month said it would submit a report on human rights issues in the country to the UN rights council.

CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann C. de Guia told news briefing on Aug. 11 they were consulting civic and grassroot groups on the UN’s mechanism to assess the human rights situation in the country.

The CHR said the Duterte government had encouraged a culture of impunity by hindering independent inquiries and by failing to prosecute erring cops involved in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

Last week, Philippine Solicitor General Menardo I. Guevarra asked the International Criminal Court to reject the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s plea to continue its drug war probe, saying it does not have the authority to do so.

He said the alleged murders of drug suspects in police raids were not crimes against humanity because these were not “attacks against the civilian population.”

“We have our own accountability mechanisms in place and these are all functioning as they should,” Mr. Guevarra, who was Mr. Duterte’s Justice secretary, said in a Viber message.

The Hague-based tribunal gave the Philippines until Sept. 8 to comment on the request to resume its probe of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

In June, ICC Prosecutor Karim Ahmad A. Khan asked the ICC’s pre-trial chamber to reopen the probe since the Philippines had allegedly failed to show it had investigated crimes related to the campaign. 

He said the chamber should issue an order on an “expedited basis.” It should “receive any further observations it considers appropriate from victims and the government of the Philippines,” he added.

The ICC, which tries people charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression, suspended its probe of Mr. Duterte’s deadly war on drugs last year upon the Philippine government’s request.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla earlier said the government would not submit anything to the ICC as compliance but as a “matter of comity,” noting that the Philippines is no longer an ICC member.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has said the Philippines would not rejoin the ICC. “This ICC is a very different kind of court, which is why we are carefully studying first the procedure so that our actions won’t be misinterpreted,” he said on Aug. 1.

Carlos H. Conde, a senior researcher at HRW, said the ICC would likely proceed with its investigation of the drug war even if the Philippines refuses to cooperate.

“Mr. Marcos and his advisers can spin this all they want, but this is definitely going to happen, and this is a decision the ICC is keen to take,” he said on Aug. 1.”

Only 21% or 62,000 of 291,000 drug cases filed have led to convictions, Interior Secretary Benjamin C. Abalos said in July, citing police data from 2016 to 2022.

The Department of Justice has brought five of the 52 cases involving 150 police officers to court since it started its own probe last year.

Philippine police have said they have killed about 6,000 people in illegal drug raids, many of them resisting arrest. Human rights advocates have placed the death toll at more than 27,000. — John Victor D. Ordoñez