2 years of Duterte presidency a rights calamity, says int’l group
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes the second year of President Rodrigo Duterte in power in just four words: a human rights calamity.
“On this day two years ago, Rodrigo Duterte took his oath of office as President of the Philippines — and immediately unleashed a human rights calamity in the guise of a ‘drug war’ that has claimed the lives of thousands of men, women and children,” Carlos Conde, HRW Asia researcher, said in a statement on Saturday.
“This is a day of mourning, not celebration. Mourning for the thousands of poor Filipinos that have been subjected to brutal summary killings by the police and ‘unidentified gunmen’ — who are often also state agents — incited and instigated by Duterte and his henchmen who continue to pursue this murderous campaign while systematically silencing any meaningful opposition and calls for accountability,” Conde said.
Crimes against humanity
“[W]e reiterate our call for [the International Criminal Court] and UN investigations into these killings and the role of the Duterte administration and the Philippine National Police in what may well constitute crimes against humanity,” he said.
A new study done by researchers from Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University counted more than 5,000 people killed by police in the crackdown on illegal drugs since the President was elected in May 2016 up to Sept. 28, 2017.
The PNP, however, acknowledges only more than 3,000 deaths and insists the suspects were killed in exchanges of gunfire with police.
But thousands more have been killed by unknown assailants in cases the PNP calls “deaths under investigation.”
“Two years later, the killings and the Duterte government’s efforts to eviscerate rule of law continue. It needs to stop,” Conde said.
Rights groups believe the killers are state agents, but have presented no evidence of their claims.
A Senate inquiry into the so-called extrajudicial killings in 2016 was terminated with no findings against the authorities and the original investigator, Sen. Leila de Lima, was thrown in jail on drug charges.
On Sunday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, said the Duterte administration, after two years in office, remained fixated on suppressing crime and illegal drugs instead of the more important task of preventing them.
In a radio interview, Lacson, chair of the Senate public order committee, criticized the authorities for their focus on operations targeting suspects without taking measures to increase police visibility and conducting more foot patrols to prevent crime.
“There are two ways to solve the problem of drugs and criminality: prevention and suppression. But prevention is more important. Suppression should be the last resort,” said Lacson, who headed the PNP from 1999 to 2001.
“Now our government’s focus is just suppression. What I am seeing is lack of police visibility,” he said.
Lacson recalled that during his time as PNP chief, he “borrowed” Marines to work alongside police officers on patrols.
“The result was an immediate 70-percent reduction of petty crimes,” he said.
Lacson said he was not suggesting the PNP work out a similar arrangement with the military.
“Then, there were fewer police [officers]. I am not suggesting the same thing just because I did that. But the lesson learned was that police visibility prevented common crimes,” he said. —With a report from DJ Yap
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