The administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has made significant changes in the handling of illegal drug cases in the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.
Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza made this remark after the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) last week issued findings on the alleged grave human rights violations and the extremely high number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, particularly in the context of the government’s campaigns against illegal drugs.
“Contrary to what has been mentioned about the culture of impunity, I think there has been a shift in terms of the issue of how illegal drugs is actually being addressed,” Daza said in a Palace press briefing.
She said the Marcos administration has made “very clear pronouncements” about the seriousness of the government in terms of human rights obligations.
Daza cited how Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla had assured the UNHRC of the Philippines’ efforts to strengthen domestic human rights mechanisms during his meeting with UN Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif last Oct. 4.
“It has taken a very open and constructive approach to the issue of human rights and as a manifestation of this constructive approach, no less than the Secretary of Justice has actually participated in a series of dialogues with the Human Rights Council where he actually mentioned the reforms being undertaken by the government as well as updates on cases of interest,” she added.
Remulla led the Philippine delegation in the Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the Philippines in the UNHRC on Oct. 5 and the revalida on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on Oct. 10 and 11 in Geneva.
In his meeting with Nada al-Nashif, Remulla underscored the progress in the Philippines’ ongoing efforts to strengthen domestic human rights mechanisms.
He highlighted the department’s reforms in decongesting prisons and the release last month of 371 detainees who had served their sentences.
He said the DOJ would continue such releases and take measures to strengthen the witness protection program.
Al-Nashif, meanwhile, recognized the Philippines’ efforts to address such issues as enhancing accountability, engagement with the UN, and a human rights-based approach to drug control.
In September, Marcos assured that he would take a more “holistic” approach to the country’s crackdown on illegal drugs.
“The war on drugs will continue but we have to do it in a different way,” he said.
He added that there was a “working group” tasked to formulate a new policy against the prevalence of illegal drug trade in the country.
“They knew about the war on drugs. We are looking more in the upstream, upstream of the problem, the prevention,” Marcos said. “So, all of that. And those who are already involved o naadik na (or drug addict), we should treat them. We’re trying to… In fact, right now, we are trying to formulate how, what is the latest and what’s the best way for rehabilitation.”