International rights group slams killing of 5-year-old girl
An international human rights group has condemned the killing of a 5-year-old girl in President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.
In a statement released yesterday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) also denounced Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre for defending the drug killings and refusing to respond to repeated calls for an impartial investigation of alleged summary executions of drug users or pushers.
In the statement, Phelim Kine, HRW deputy director for Asia, condemned the killing of 5-year-old Danica Mae Garcia in a gun attack on a suspected drug user in Pangasinan province on Tuesday.
Kine also took issue with Aguirre’s blithe dismissal of criticisms against the Duterte administration’s stance on the killings, insisting that, “If you’re in the Philippines, you will choose to kill these drug lords.”
Danica Mae was hit in the head when a gunman fired on her grandfather, Maximo Garcia, as the family sat down to lunch in their home in Mayombo village, Dagupan City, on Tuesday.
Garcia was hit in the abdomen, but survived. He remained confined in a local hospital yesterday.
The attack on Garcia came just three days after he had registered with the local police, who suspected he was involved in the drug trade.
Police blamed the attack on unnamed “drug dealers.”
Yesterday, police, with the help of witnesses, identified the gunman as Bryan Macaayao, allegedly Garcia’s drug supplier.
With Aguirre’s endorsement of extrajudicial killing, Kine said Danica Mae was unlikely to be the last child to die in the administration’s campaign against drugs.
“Aguirre’s perverse endorsement of extrajudicial violence as crime control suggests that Danica Mae is unlikely to be the last child victim. Each day, the death toll from the government’s war on drugs climbs higher and higher,” Kine said.
“Danica Mae is just one of more than a thousand Filipinos killed by unidentified gunmen between July 1, when President Rodrigo Duterte took office, and Aug. 19,” the HRW statement said.
It cited official statistics indicating that police had killed 712 suspected “drug pushers and users” in that period, besides accidental deaths, including Danica Mae’s.
“These killings suggest Duterte’s aggressive rhetoric advocating violent, extrajudicial solutions to crime in the Philippines has found willing takers,” Kine said.
“Last month, he exhorted Filipinos who knew of any drug addicts to ‘go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful,’” he said.
Mr. Duterte has repeatedly urged police to kill drug suspects, promising them rewards and protection from prosecution, drawing criticism from human rights groups and the United Nations.
UN special rapporteur on summary executions Agnes Callamard last week said Mr. Duterte’s promise of immunity and bounties to police who killed drug suspects violated international law.
Such criticisms provoke angry outbursts from Mr. Duterte, who, after Callamard’s remarks, called a news conference after 1 a.m. on Sunday to cuss the United Nations and threatened to pull the Philippines out of the world body.
On Thursday, Mr. Duterte’s police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, urged drug users who had surrendered to kill traffickers and burn their homes.
Officials play down such comments as borne out of exasperation.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said on Monday that the Philippines was not quitting the United Nations, and that Mr. Duterte was just expressing his exasperation with criticisms of his war on drugs.
Yesterday, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Dela Rosa did not intend to encourage violence and his remarks were just a warning to drug lords.
Only one alleged drug lord has been killed in Mr. Duterte’s campaign against narcotics, which has taken more than 1,900 lives.
Danica Mae Garcia was an unintended victim, and Macaayao, the alleged gunman, is a suspect in three cases, according to Dagupan police.
Supt. Neil Miro, Dagupan City police chief, said yesterday that a couple had seen the attack on the Garcia home and knew Macaayao.
Miro said Macaayao was accused of shooting Marcial Samson, 40, in the subvillage of Bagong Barrio in Bonuan on Aug. 6, 2013, and was linked to two murders in 2014.
Miro said charges were being readied against Macaayao and his unidentified accomplice, who drove the motorcycle on which they fled.
If drugs were the reason for the attack, the gunman had gone after the wrong person, according to Garcia’s wife, Gemma.
Gemma Garcia said her husband used to be hooked on drugs but stopped after suffering from a stroke in 2013. He had a second stroke last year, she said.
Shown Macaayao’s picture, Gemma Garcia said she did not know the man.
“My husband never pushed or sold illegal drugs,” she said. With a report from Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon/TVJ
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