This afternoon, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra repeatedly stressed before the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council that the domestic mechanisms for accountability in the Philippines are working and provided some details in the findings of the drug war panel – that there was failure to follow standard protocols in crime scene investigations, paraffin tests, and examination and verification of weapons used, amid law enforcement officials’ claims that those killed fought back. These findings, made belatedly after more than four years of the ‘drug war,’ merely prove the point in the cases of families whose loved ones have been killed – that they were killed in cold blood and that there was cover-up by the police and authorities, while the President cheered them on.
Claiming that the campaign against illegal drugs is widely supported by Filipinos, Secretary Guevarra fails to acknowledge the deep pain and difficult circumstances of families, mainly from poor communities, victimized in this murderous campaign that has taken the lives of tens of thousands of Filiipinos. Many perpetrators of these killings remain scot-free, numerous cases filed by kin of victims at the Ombudsman have been dismissed, many have been denied of their right to obtain documents and reports from the police – are these indicators of “working domestic accountability mechanisms”?
With COVID-19, the impoverished state of the millions of Filipinos is worse than ever, leaving many vulnerable to the scourge that is drug use, addiction, and small-time peddling. Rather than addressing the roots of drug use with economic and health programs, the Duterte administration continues to promote the legitimacy of this campaign that has resulted in widespread and systematic violations of human rights.
The diplomatic tactic of the Philippine government to appear to cooperate with the UN to address the human rights crisis in the Philippines cannot cover up the glaring reality that legal and domestic remedies are not functioning as they should to bring redress to families victimized by these drug-related killings.
We continue to urge the UNHRC and the International Criminal Court to investigate the human rights crisis in the Philippines. The Duterte government will not hold itself accountable, as Duterte’s bloody “drug war” has been unabashedly trumpeted by the president himself as he called over and over for people to be killed and praised the police for their tokhang operations. Without further action towards accountability, impunity and widespread killings will win the day in the Philippines. #StopTheKillings
Reference: Deaconess Rubylin Litao, Coordinator, Rise Up for Life and for Rights