Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has asked Mr. Duterte to stop ignoring the growing global concerns by two reputable human rights organizations about the worsening human rights abuses under the government’s all-out war on drugs.
De Lima posed the challenge after Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) – both highly regarded human rights research and advocacy groups – reported continuous human rights abuses in the country over the past three years.
“Since he became President in 2016, Mr. Duterte has consistently and arrogantly ignored damning reports, based on solid research and investigation, from HRW and AI,” De Lima, the most prominent critic of Duterte’s anti-human rights policies, said.
“He would brag about his participation on murder, rape and other crimes in his public speeches, but will also conveniently deny his involvement in encouraging extrajudicial killings and summary executions in his skewed public order policies,” she added.
In its 2020 World Report, New York-based HRW claims that the Duterte administration continued its deadly drug war in 2019 “with new cases appearing in the media daily.” HRW cited local estimates that there are about 27,000 drug related killings in the Philippines.
“The modus operandi for the killings involved police raiding homes to apprehend alleged drug dealers or users, who instead of being taken into custody would be reported dead, with the police claiming self-defense,” HRW said in its report.
“Research by Human Rights Watch and credible media outlets such as Rappler and Reuters indicate that these vigilante-style killings were perpetrated by police officers themselves or by killers linked to the authorities,” it added.
Similarly, the AI Review of 2019 claimed that members of the police force have continued in apprehending drug suspects using “unsubstantiated ‘drug watch lists’” and justified killings in anti-drug operations when “poor and marginalized” victims allegedly violently resisted.
“Police continued to allege that victims fought back requiring the use of deadly force, despite witness accounts that they were killed in cold blood,” the London-based human rights advocacy and research group said.
“Families were unable to obtain justice for their loved ones, due to enormous obstacles to filing cases against perpetrators, including fears of retaliation. There remained no meaningful accountability for the killings at the national level,” AI added.
In 2016, even before he was sworn in as President, Duterte heavily campaigned and won on his platform to eradicate illegal drugs in the country, using any means necessary – including summary killing of alleged users, pushers and other suspects.
Both HRW and AI reports also bewailed the Duterte regime’s crackdown and harassment on human rights defenders and administration critics, including De Lima, noting that she has been detained since February 2017 based on “fabricated drug charges,” according to HRW.
“The government continued to repress human rights defenders. Senator Leila de Lima, the President’s most prominent critic and a prisoner of conscience, remained in detention since February 2017 on politically-motivated charges,” AI said for its part.
Due to her impassioned advocacy of justice, human rights and observance of the rule of law for the Philippines, the lady Senator from Bicol was subjected by the President and his allies to vile accusations and sexist remarks.
Less than eight months into her term as a neophyte Senator, she was arrested and detained based only on accounts of persons convicted of heinous crimes and dubious personalities who had axes to grind against her.
“Instead of burying his head in the sand in face of the growing global uproar on the descent of humanity and accountability in the country, Duterte should face these reports head on instead of beating his chest in his public appearances,” the feisty lawmaker said.
“The walls of justice are closing in on you, Mr. President. Despite your numerous attempts to evade it, history has repeatedly proven that accountability is sure to come to those who abuse power for their personal gain,” she added. (30)