September 16 ------ United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday called on the Philippine government to "revoke the policies" that resulted in the killing and human rights violations of thousands of drug suspects in its intensified anti-narcotics campaign. In a statement during the opening of the 45th Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Bachelet also urged Philippine officials "to halt the use of rhetoric inciting violence against people who use or sell drugs."
"There is clearly an urgent need to revoke the policies that continue to result in killings and other human rights violations, to bring to justice the perpetrators, and to halt the use of rhetoric inciting violence against people who use or sell drugs," she said. Bachelet also expressed "concern" about reports on the persistence of drug-related killings — by "both police and vigilantes" — in the Philippines even amid the lockdowns implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent report by Human Rights Watch, citing Philippine government data, said killings in relation to the drug war went up by almost 50% between April to July 2020 compared to the previous four-month period. HRW based its claim on data of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency indicating that a total of 5,810 individuals died during anti-illegal drug operations since 2016.
"Human Rights Watch analyzed the government’s statistics and found 155 persons were killed in the past four months. Before the COVID-19 crisis, police killed 103 persons from December 2019 to March 2020," said Carlos Conde, HRW - Asia Division researcher, in the report. In her statement, Bachelet said the UN Human Rights Council continues to work with the Philippine government and civil society and is awaiting the report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on its review on police investigations on operations where drug suspects were killed.
"In June, the Secretary for Justice (Menardo Guevarra) told this Council that a review would begin into internal police investigations of 5,655 anti-illegal drug operations where deaths occurred," she said. "We are seeking details from the Government so we can advise and assess the review panel's scope, process and efficacy," Bachelet added.
ACTA, death penalty
In the same statement, Bachelet also aired her concern about the "harassment, threats and violence against journalists, activists and critics" as well as the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which she said has "many problematic provisions." She also expressed alarm over President Rodrigo Duterte's intention to reinstate the death penalty. "I encourage the Council to remain active on this situation and to support my Office's continued monitoring and reporting – including to this Council – as well as our technical cooperation to implement the report's recommendations, and to continue to pursue accountability," Bachelet said.