Extrajudicial killings “chief human rights concern” in Philippines ? US
The United States said that extrajudicial killings have been the "chief human rights concern" in the Philippines, particularly after the sudden increase in the number of individuals who died under President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
In the 2017 Human Rights Report, the US Department of State cited killings by security forces, vigilantes and others allegedly connected to the government; warrantless arrests by security forces and cases of apparent government disregard for legal rights and due process; killings of and threats against journalists; and threats of violence against human rights activists as among the "most significant human rights issues" in the country.
"Extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and, after a sharp rise with the onset of the anti-drug campaign in 2016, they continued in 2017," the report said.
According to the report, the number of alleged EJKs varied widely, as government and nongovernment organizations used different definitions.
Citing media reports, it noted that more than 900 were killed from January to end of September in police operations suspected to be connected with the government's anti-drug campaign.
"Police claimed to have begun investigations of all reports of extrajudicial killings," it said, citing police report that they have resolved 1,889 cases and 4,373 remained under investigation as of August.
The State Department said the Duterte government investigated a limited number of reported human rights abuses by its own forces, paramilitaries, and insurgent and terrorist groups.
"Concerns about police impunity increase significantly following the sharp increase in police killings," it said.
It noted Duterte's public rejection of "criticism of police killings" although he promised to order investigation against security forces who had taken actions outside the rule of law.
But it said that as of October, no criminal complaints had been filed by the Public Attorney's Office or the National Bureau of Investigation against Philippine National Police officers accused of unlawful killings.
"Government mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption in the security forces remained largely ineffective," the report read.
"Significant concerns persisted about impunity of civilian national and local government officials and powerful business and commercial figures," it added.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano hit the US report, as well as the recent resolution issued by the European Parliament calling for a stop in the spate of alleged EJKs in the Philippines.
"We do not need others who think they know better than us Filipinos to tell us what to do. As a sovereign nation, the Philippines deserves the same kind of respect we have been extending to our friends in the international community," he said in a statement on Saturday.
He said the Philippines has a fully functioning democracy led by a legitimately elected government.
"While we note that the United States and other entities such as the European Parliament have their own reporting mechanisms, the Philippines has its own internal processes and mechanisms to ensure that the human rights of all our people are protected and respected," Cayetano said.
He insisted that the government's campaign against illegal drugs seeks to promote the welfare and protect the human rights of all Filipinos, "to save lives, to preserve families, to protect communities and stop the country from sliding into a narco-state."
He assured the international community that in the conduct of the government's campaign, "we will remain guided by the rule of law embodied in our Constitution, which also enshrines the country’s long-standing tradition of upholding human rights."
The US report also cited the continued conflicts between the government and Muslim separatist, communist insurgent, and terrorist groups, which displaced communities and resulted in deaths of security forces and civilians.
It noted the terrorist Maute Group's five-month attack and occupation in Marawi City, which started in May last year, resulting to the displacement of about 360,000 individuals.
The Marawi siege also prompted Duterte to declare martial law in the whole of Mindanao, it added. Celerina Monte/DMS