President Rodrigo Duterte’s narcotics crackdown has become a “systematic” campaign of abuses, Amnesty International alleged on Monday, urging the United Nations to launch a probe into thousands of killings.
The Palace, however, accused AI of politicizing the war on drugs, while the Philippine National Police said the rights group painted with a broad brush when it said the buy-bust “narrative” was being used as “a script” to justify the killing of drug suspects.
In its second report on the crackdown since 2016, Amnesty said the campaign targets, mostly poor people, are largely drawn from “drug watch lists” supplied by local officials who are “under immense pressure” from police to provide a steady stream of suspects.
“Worse still, individuals on watch lists appear to be placed on them indefinitely, with no means of getting delisted, even after they have gone through drug treatment or stopped using drugs,” the report said.
Amnesty said it was impossible to determine how many people have been killed in the campaign, accusing Manila of “deliberate obfuscation and misinformation” that has left victims’ kin feeling helpless.
The government’s official toll is just over 5,300 suspects killed by police, but watchdogs say the true number is quadruple that.
“What we believe is most important, in assessing the current situation, is the systematic nature of the violations,” Amnesty’s East Asia director Nicholas Bequelin said.
Amnesty said the press has lost interest in the killings while the government fails to investigate or provide adequate treatment programs for drug users.
READ: Palace slams UN meddling in drug war
“It has had the effect of creating a climate of total impunity in the country, in which police and others are free to kill without consequence,” it said.
“There is sufficient evidence to conclude that crimes committed may constitute crimes against humanity,” the group added.
Amnesty said it investigated the deaths of 27 people over the past year in Bulacan, a province that has become “the country’s bloodiest killing field.”
Police broke down doors before shooting drug suspects inside and abducted others to be killed elsewhere, it alleged.
Police also tampered with crime scenes and fabricated their reports, planted evidence and stole from victims, it added.
“The failure of the international community to meaningfully address the serious human rights violations committed... has emboldened the government to carry out a wider crackdown on independent media, human rights defenders, and political activists,” the report said.
Amnesty called on the UN Human Rights Council to open an independent inquiry to “put an end to these crimes, and to provide justice and reparations for countless families and victims.”
It also urged the Office of the Ombudsman and the Justice department to investigate violations of the law being committed by the police in the war on drugs.
The group’s appeal echoed a draft resolution proposed by Iceland at the UN rights council and backed mainly by Western nations.
With the council expected to vote on the document before ending its sessions on July 12, the Philippine government on Friday reiterated Duterte’s warning to back off.
“Any attempt... by any foreign country to interfere with how this government maintains its peace and order, not only is an affront to their intellect but an interference with the country’s sovereignty as well,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo said police operations in the drug war are legitimate, and police officers are entitled to self-defense if suspects resist arrest violently.
It keeps on calling for an investigation ever since, but the fact remains that the basis for their call is factually wrong. They are saying that there have been murders in this country as if all those who were killed in the police operations have been intentionally slaughtered or killed by the policemen,” Panelo said.
READ: Justice begins probe of P1.8-billion shabu smuggle
Malacañang has previously shunned the call for probe, calling it an “interference” in the country’s sovereignty.
The government also says the countries who sought a probe were misled by “untruthful narratives.”
In its report, Amnesty dismissed police claims that all those killed had fought back.
“This so-called buy-bust narrative doesn’t meet the feeblest standards of credibility,” Amnesty International said in its 2019 report.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday said the Department of Justice is ready to investigate law enforcers who violate the law in the conduct of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.
“The DOJ and the National Bureau of Investigation are ready and willing to investigate and prosecute law enforcement agents upon proper complaint by people who have personal knowledge of any wrongdoing by police officers during drug operations,” Guevarra said.
However, Guevarra said this has nothing to do with the report of Amnesty International.
“There’s no need for Amnesty International to urge us to investigate possible violations of law by law enforcement agents in the conduct of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign,” the DOJ chief said.
Guevarra pointed out that until witnesses come forward to testify, law enforcers’ presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty would prevail. With AFP and PNAREAD: PH slams intrusion by 11 rights experts
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.