UN report flags PH cops’ ‘near impunity’ in drug war
The United Nations on Wednesday released a report on the human rights situation in the Philippines that cited the “near impunity” of police and other top officials in the country’s war against illegal drugs.
The 26-page report, which would be presented before the UN Human Rights Council this month, said that President Duterte’s “ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement … to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill.”
The report was referring to the PNP Command Memorandum Circular No. 16-2016, which launched Oplan Double Barrel.
“Despite credible allegations of widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings in the context of the campaign against illegal drugs, there has been near impunity for such violations,” the report said, adding that “tens of thousands” may have already been killed in the drug war.
“The Government has also increasingly filed criminal charges, including by using COVID-19 special powers laws, against social media users posting content critical of Government policies and actions,” the report pointed out further.
“Worrying new laws and amendments have been proposed with the stated aim of strengthening public order and countering terrorism, which risk eroding constitutional and other legal protections,” the report said.
Regarding the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act approved by the House of Representatives, the report said the measure “dilutes human rights safeguards, broadens the definition of terrorism and expands the period of detention without warrant from three to 14 days, extendable by another 10 days. The vague definitions in the Anti-Terrorism Act may violate the principle of legality.”Reacting to the report, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said freedom of expression in the Philippines cannot be suppressed “because the Filipino people will never agree to it.”
Freedom of expression is “not absolute,” he said, adding that the country’s courts are “working” and that “the system works.”
Roque also dismissed the “rehashed claims of impunity” as “unfounded” and have “no place in the Philippines,” and instead cited President Duterte’s “consistent high approval ratings” as affirming “public support for his leadership.” —With report from Julie M. Aurelio
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