Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to send an independent fact-finding mission to the Philippines to investigate the extrajudicial killings under the government’s all-out war on drugs.
In her letter to the UNHRC member-states last Sept. 5, De Lima reiterated her support to civil society groups and multilateral organizations in urging UNHRC to take “concrete and sustainable forms of action” on human rights issues in the Philippines.
“There is urgency to create such a fact-finding mission or a commission of inquiry at the level of the UNHRC to address the human rights calamity in my country,” she said as she requested for “urgent action” on the human rights crisis in the Philippines.
According to the Senator, the independent international fact-finding mission must be urgently constituted and dispatched to establish facts and circumstances of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations in the government’s war on drugs.
She pointed out that the independent mission should also ensure that the victims of the extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses should find justice and that their perpetrators and masterminds should be held accountable for their crimes.
As the 39th session of UNHRC starts this week, De Lima urged member-states to pass a resolution for a fact-finding mission after credible investigation at the domestic level has been effectively blocked, if not met with indifference from local authorities.
“There is added cogency in this call considering that the killings continue, and Duterte has vowed in his recent State of the Nation Address that his drug war would remain relentless and chilling as on the day it begun,” she said.
Last August, the National Bureau of Investigation claimed it was investigating only 37 drug war-related killings and the Department of Justice said it was only able to investigate 71 cases, wherein only 19 reached the courts for prosecution.
In addition, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police has no public report whether it is even handling any sincere investigation of the extrajudicial killings, which should be part of its mandate.
“By not conducting prompt, thorough and effective investigation into the extrajudicial killings under the so-called war on drugs, the Philippine government is in a clear breach of its duty under international law,” De Lima said.
Under international law, the former justice secretary explained that the States have the obligation to investigate extrajudicial killings and provide effective remedy by competent national institutions for these violations.
However, De Lima continued, the present Philippine government has unilaterally withdrawn from its membership to the Rome Statue/International Criminal Court (ICC), an issue that is now a subject of petition before the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
“His government even refuses to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms. Worse, he shamelessly disrespects UN officials. The Philippines did not fully accept over half of the recommendations it received during its Universal Periodic Review at the UNHRC in 2017,” she added.
She also noted how the then UN High Commissioner and other UN Special Rapporteurs have been threatened and verbally attacked when they expressed their grave concerns over the human rights situation in the Philippines.
According to De Lima, the only major investigation on EJKs that took place was the Senate inquiry she initiated and conducted where she presented key witnesses who testified under oath the rampant killings under the government’s all-out war on drugs.
After she was removed from chairing the Senate probe by President Duterte’s allies in the Senate, the public hearings were abruptly concluded with a dubious report which ruled out that the killings are state-sponsored.
Last Dec. 13, De Lima filed a 151-page Dissenting Report to the Joint Committee Report No. 18 of the Senate Committees on Justice and on Public Order where she pushed for the immediate creation of the independent fact-finding commission.