UN human rights commissioner slams Duterte gov't for "absence" of credible probes on EJKs
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has hit the Duterte administration for an "apparent absence of credible investigations" into the reported thousands of extrajudicial killings, including the death of a 17-year old student.
In his opening statement on the Human Rights Council 36th session on September 11, Hussein expressed his grave concern over President Rodrigo Duterte's "open support for a shoot-to-kill policy" regarding the drug suspects.
He also raised concern over the "apparent absence of credible investigations into reports of thousands of extrajudicial killings, and the failure to prosecute any perpetrator."
He noted the recent killing of Kian delos Santos whom he said was dragged into an alley and shot in the head by plains-clothed policeman on August 16 and which was described by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II as "an isolated case."
"However, suspicion of extrajudicial killings has now become so widespread that the initials EJK have reportedly become a verb in some communities ? as in 'he was EJKed'. Two days after hundreds of people turned out for the teenager's funeral, the President again told police they would not be punished for killing suspects who resist arrest. This lack of respect for the due process rights of all Filipinos is appalling," Hussein said.
The UN official said he was also "shocked" by Duterte's threat to bomb schools for indigenous children in southern Philippines.
He was referring to Duterte's statement in July when the President accused the communist rebels of using some schools in Mindanao to indoctrinate the students to rebel against the government.
Hussein also cited Duterte's order to police to shoot any human rights workers who "are part of" the drug trade or who "obstruct justice," saying it was yet another blow to Philippines' reputation and his people's rights.
He also reiterated his concern about the case of opposition Senator Leila de Lima, who has been detained in Camp Crame police headquarters amid the charges filed against her for allegedly violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
De Lima is a staunch critic of Duterte's alleged human rights violations since he was a mayor of Davao City.
"Many human rights defenders who are the honour of their country face a growing number of death threats, and I call on the Government to ensure they are accorded full protection and the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly without reprisals. Measures taken towards a reintroduction of the death penalty threaten yet another step back," he said.
He also urged the Duterte government to "uphold the Philippines' international human rights obligations, amid deeper reflection about the values that the Philippines stands for."
Meanwhile, in a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the government is "deeply concerned" with Hussein's "sweeping statement during the UNHR Council's 36th session, citing instances bereft of factual basis."
He said the UN official's broad references about Duterte's supposed policies run counter to what he continues to pronounce.
Abella belied Hussein's statement on the President's supposed shoot-to-kill order.
"All drug killings are subject to investigations," he said.
On Duterte's supposed threat to bomb schools and to shoot human rights workers, he said Hussein missed the context of the President's statements.
On the case of De Lima, he said her incarceration was due to "criminal, not political, issues.
"For the record, it is the court, which is independent from the executive, which ordered the arrest of Senator De Lima for drug trafficking charges and for allegedly receiving money from drug dealers at the National Penitentiary," he said.
"The objective of the President’s campaign against illegal drugs is to preserve the lives of the Filipino people, to prevent the destruction of Filipino families, and to protect the Philippines from becoming a narco-state," Abella stressed. Celerina Monte/DMS