An international human rights watchdog is pushing for an independent investigation by the United Nations (UN) into the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs and the “alarming” rash of killings of minors allegedly perpetrated by policemen.
In a statement on Saturday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said a total of 54 minors had been killed in brutal police antidrug operations across the country.
“The apparent willingness of the Philippine police to deliberately target children for execution marks an appalling new level of depravity in this so-called drug war,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of HRW.
These killings demonstrate that [President] Duterte’s rejection of the rule of law has made all Filipinos potential ‘drug war’ victims, no matter how young.”
The group issued the statement in the wake of the recent killings during police operations of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz and 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman, Arnaiz’s last known companion.
Policemen claimed that Delos Santos was a drug courier who shot it out with them, while Arnaiz was killed after he allegedly robbed a taxi driver at gunpoint. De Guzman’s body was fished out of a river in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, with 31 stab wounds, a few days after Arnaiz was shot dead.
De Guzman’s head was wrapped in packaging tape, in the style of purported “vigilante killings” of drug suspects.
“A fundamental obligation of every government is to protect the lives of its children, not to empower police and their agents to murder them,” Kine said.
“Until Duterte ends his abusive drug war and allows a UN-led international probe, child killers among the police will continue to get away with murder,” he added.
Citing the count of non-government organization Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, HRW said 54 minors had been killed in police operations and vigilante killings related to the antidrug campaign since July 2016, when Mr. Duterte took office.
The government placed the number of “drug personalities” who have “died in antidrug operations” at 3,811 over the same period.
The President and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II have described the deaths of children in the war on drugs as “collateral damage.”
The human rights group urged the UN to put pressure on the Duterte administration so it would accept an independent probe into allegations of extrajudicial killings in the country.
“Concerted action by the UN Human Rights Council to address Duterte’s abusive drug war is crucial,” the HRW said.
“The council should press the Philippine government to accept an independent international investigation into all allegations of extrajudicial killings and to hold those responsible to account,” it added.
Kine also expressed apprehensions over the government’s plan to subject students and applicants to random drug testing, saying it would “effectively allow the police to extend their abusive antidrug operations to college and university campuses, placing students at grave risk.”
Capacity for impartiality
The HRW expressed concerns about “the willingness and capacity of the Philippine authorities to conduct thorough, impartial and transparent investigations” into drug war-related killings.
“The UN council should also press the government to cooperate with the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions [Agnes Callamard], grant unfettered and unconditional access to the rapporteur, and immediately stop all official incitement and instigation of drug war killings,” the HRW said.
The President has villified those that question his war on drugs, including Callamard.
Last year, Mr. Duterte imposed conditions before allowing Callamard to hold a fact-finding mission. Callamard refused these terms, saying an official visit was “not a vehicle for entertainment, theatrics or politicking.”
Call for end to EJKs
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development has also called for an end to the killings of minors.
“Connected or not to the campaign against illegal drugs, these senseless killings should stop. We beg for the lives of Filipino children—they should be spared from violence and protected at all costs,” said Social Welfare Undersecretary Hope Hervilla in a statement.
“This culture of impunity should not be tolerated, especially now that the targets are children and young Filipinos. What does it say about our society that we are allowing our children to fall victim to brutal killings, at the hands of individuals who have no respect whatsoever for human rights, much less the rights of children?” the statement added.
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