"No country rich or poor, weak or powerful, can escape scrutiny in this day and age."
If the intention of the government is for other countries to leave our country alone to do what it thinks is right because it is a sovereign nation, this is not going to happen. As they say, no man is an island and this can also be true when speaking of a country. As a member of the international community of nations, the country is obligated to abide by certain conventions and norms of conduct. No country rich or poor, weak or powerful, can escape scrutiny in this day and age.
Many countries are being taken to task because of what they are doing within their borders. Two examples in Asia are China and Myanmar. China in the case of its treatment of the Uighur minority in the province of Xinxiang and Myanmar in the treatment of the Rohingyas.
For us, the issue is extrajudicial killings. Our leaders are overreacting to the Iceland-initiated resolution that will require the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to come up with a comprehensive report about the alleged continuing extrajudicial killings in the country as a result of our anti-illegal drug war. And that’s saying it mildly. Of the 47 member countries of the UNCHR, 18 voted for the resolution, 14 against it, while 15 abstained. Instead of an investigation as originally envisioned, the resolution settled for a report.
But that was enough to get the administration go on war footing. Senator Imee Marcos suggested that we cut diplomatic ties with Iceland. The President’s many supporters also accused Iceland of insulting the Philippines. Others suggested we pull out of the UNCHR. Cooler heads have somehow prevailed and the latest news is that there will be no breaking of diplomatic ties or withdrawal from the UNCHR.
Still, to the Duterte administration, the resolution is considered an interference with the sovereignty of the country which cannot be allowed. The critics of the administration, on the other hand, are saying that if the government has nothing to hide, then it should allow the UNCHR to proceed with what the resolution is asking. Others who want perhaps to be on the middle are suggesting that our Commission on Human Rights should just come out with the report. The anti-drug war has been going on for the last three years and thousands have indeed been killed. In spite of the ferocity of the campaign however, the drug problem shows no signs of any significant resolution. On the contrary, it seems to be worsening. To this day, we are still reading in the newspapers and watching on TV of drug operations resulting in the death of suspects who have been reported to have fought back but up to now, we still do not have reliable statistics. During the first year, there was a more accurate record of how many were killed in drug-related police operations. But later on, this has somehow slowed down and later on stopped altogether. The figure is now somehow stuck between 5,000 and 6,000 fatalities. Since the Philippine National Police no longer publishes accurate data on the number of fatalities, this is perhaps one of the reasons why the UNCHR wants to find out the real score.
Whatever result the UNCHR comes up with, the country can survive it. Our leaders should look at this issue calmly, rationally and objectively, devoid of the emotional rhetoric that has been spewing the last few days. The government could decide to assist in the effort to prevent its enemies from hijacking the process by controlling the people and organizations who will be interviewed.
Part of the problem has been the failure on the part of the police in categorizing the fatalities. All those thousands of deaths could be divided into five broad categories. First are those that have been killed in open firefight during the conduct of police operations. Second are those killed because of other crimes not related to the drug campaign. Third are those who have been killed because of the ongoing anti-terror campaign. The fourth are those killed allegedly for fighting back during anti-drug operations and still under investigation. The last are homicide cases not involving the police. Most of the drug-related deaths would fall on the first and fourth categories.
The Philippine National Police should work hard on this and publish its findings. If in the process it will be found out that there were indeed suspicious killings and rubouts as the police critics would like to point out, then the PNP should conduct the investigation and file the necessary charges. More harm will be done on its reputation by refusing to do this. The police should not make the situation worse by insisting on its position. The law on statistics alone will tell us that with so many fatalities, some of them must be suspicious deaths and deserving of further investigation.
Our country is not the only country tough on drugs. Other countries are also doing it. Unfortunately, it is our rhetoric sometimes that gets us into trouble. As I have said, the country will survive whatever the result of the UNCHR report is. One indication of this is that although one study is saying that the country is the fourth most dangerous place for civilians, another survey says thousands of expat citizens living all over the world rank the country 24th best in the world for expats to live in, just behind the United States and ahead of China.
Our leaders should chill a bit. This country is not really that bad no matter what critics are saying.