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Human Rights scores one for a change – iDEFEND

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.

Instead of preparing itself domestically towards cooperation with the Council inquiry, the government wasted taxpayers’ money by undertaking vilification and disinformation campaigns against states and human rights defenders. All these attacks only indicate that there are still no official legal processes addressing these crimes. Until the adoption of resolution L20 the Philippine government sought to mask the realities of extrajudicial killings in the country - the war on drugs is an authoritarian project designed to silence dissent, crackdown on critics, political opponents and human rights defenders and institutionalize martial rule towards amassing unbridled power for the ruling elite.  

iDEFEND reminds the Philippine government of its avowed commitment to human rights protection when it sought a seat in the Human Rights Council in 2018. This resolution is a way to fulfill that vow concretely, at the same time it is an opportunity to review the violent anti-drug campaign in a human rights perspective. We urge the Philippine government to demonstrate a positive attitude toward the resolution, rise above narrow political considerations and conduct itself in a manner befitting of a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and fully cooperate with the international community.

This move is a step forward for the Philippines, which was once known as a beacon for democracy and freedom in Asia.

iDefend wishes to express its thanks the UN Human Rights Council for its steadfast support to the Filipino people, as well as to the international NGOs who have helped bring to international attention the human rights crisis in the Philippines. All together, let us hold the line for human rights and the pursuit of human dignity.