Years of painstaking efforts to pursue justice for the victims of the war on drugs won a crucial headway today as the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution L20, seeking to report on the Philippines’ extrajudicial killings. The resolution, submitted by 39 countries headed by Iceland, urged the Philippine government to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, hold perpetrators accountable, and cooperate with Human Rights Council mechanisms such as facilitating the official visits of relevant experts. It also asked that the High Commissioner for Human Rights prepare a comprehensive written report on the Philippines at the Human Rights Council’s 44th Session in 2020.
For three years relatives of the victims of extrajudicial killings, have feared for their lives and safety. Justice remain elusive for the more than 27,000 suspects slain by Operation Tokhang, the 18,000 orphans it neglected, and the more than 100 children whom Duterte called collateral damage. Meanwhile perpetrators - police operatives in particular - continue to enjoy salary increases, impunity for their crimes, and an environment wherein they can threaten and intimidate families from filing charges. Unknown gunmen mostly riding-in-tandem on motorcycles are at large yet the police report their kills as achievements of the war on drugs.
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) welcomes the resolution filed by Iceland at the 41st UN Human Rights Council Session in Geneva, seeking a comprehensive report by the High Commissioner, on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines pursuant to the government’s war on drugs. The draft resolution provides a critical first step to help the Philippines, which has consistently demonstrated unwillingness to address the relentless killings both by the national police and unidentified assailants.
To date over 27,000 victims of extrajudicial killings remain unaccounted for in terms of formal criminal investigation and prosecution, especially of police involved in the killings. In fact, many are simply transferred to other posts, reinstated or promoted. The war on drugs, implemented since July 2016 has not solved the drugs issue in the Philippines but has actually made it worse. The president himself expressed frustration at the continued entry of illegal drugs into the country and admitted failing in his brutal campaign to stem the problem.
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) concurs with the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at the 41st Session of the Human Rights Council, regarding the persistence of extrajudicial killings and related violence in the Philippines in the context of the war on drugs. In her opening statement yesterday, she reiterated that the Office of the High Commissioner is closely following the situation, particularly the extraordinarily high number of deaths and welcomed the recent statement of eleven (11) Special Rapporteurs calling for action by the Council.
Government propaganda machine Philippine News Agency is misleading the public and falsely reported that PAHRA’s operation as NGO is illegal because its Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration has been revoked. In its continuing attack on civil society, the Duterte administration, now through the SEC named PAHRA along with other human rights and sectoral organizations as communist supporters.
In fact, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates re-filed and was duly registered again with the SEC since 2010 and this registration information is publicly available. It has been operating legally without encumbrances save for those which government levies on its critics. PAHRA has served for more than thirty years empowering sectors and grassroots communities to improve their lives through human rights advocacy. It has worked with the international community to strengthen human rights implementation and accountability worldwide; and cooperated with academic, legal, and government agencies including the Commission on Human Rights on numerous projects.