Senator Leila M. de Lima urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to send a formal invitation to 11 United Nations (UN) experts to look into the ballooning number of deaths under the government’s war on drug and other rights abuses in the country.
De Lima reiterated her call for an impartial investigation on the killings after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet cited the unprecedented deaths under the government’s drug war as “a matter of most serious concern.”
“The global community is growing wary of the human rights situation in the country. The increasing number of deaths in the war on drugs, including among human rights defenders, is indeed a very serious matter that should be investigated,” she said.
“If this administration really thinks it has done nothing wrong, I challenge the Department of Foreign Affairs to extend formal invitation to the UN special rapporteurs so that they can find out for themselves the real situation here,” she added.
Earlier on, at least 11 UN experts urged the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to initiate an independent investigation into the extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and other gross human rights violations in the Philippines.
Among them are Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst, Chair-Rapporteur of Working Group on Arbitrary Detention José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, and Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences Dubravka Šimonović.
“The government must be more forthright with the records of its drug war killings. Instead of threatening these experts with arrest, they should be treated as experts capable of ensuring accountability for all these unlawful deaths,” De Lima said.
In a recent statement delivered at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Bachelet supported calls of the 11 UN special rapporteurs for the UNHRC to conduct an independent investigation into the killings.
Bachelet said the UNHRC which she heads is closely following the human rights situation in the Philippines because of the “extraordinarily high number of deaths” in the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs under Mr. Duterte.
“Even the officially confirmed number of 5,425 deaths would be a matter of most serious concern for any country,” Bachelet said, referring to the previous declaration by the government on the number of drug personalities killed during police operations.
Last July 18, the Philippine National Police declared that the total number drug personalities killed in police anti-drug operations from July 2016 to May this year was at 6,600, but the total death toll could reach to more than 28,000 if the number of victims officially recorded under the category of “homicide cases under investigation” is to be included.
De Lima, the staunchest critic of the administration’s all-out war on drugs, said the President and his allies should stop criticizing international human rights experts who want nothing but to ensure that justice is served for all the slain Filipinos.
“A pro-people government will always prioritize the welfare of its people and not focus on their selfish interests,” said the former justice secretary.
“In the Philippines, killings continue – it even worsens as day passes by – but our government does not seem to care. All they care about is to attack those who speak out against these killings and paint them as enemies of the state,” De Lima lamented. In 2016, De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 153 urging the government to send a formal invitation to Agnes Callamard to look into the extrajudicial killings and summary executions amidst the administration’s war on drugs.