DEEPENED CRISIS | Drug war, attacks on critics escalate rights situation in PH – HRW

3 months ago

(JANUARY 18, 2019) – Human rights crisis under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has “deepened,” according to the 2019 World Report of the Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The HRW pointed out the continued “murderous war on drugs,” as well as the relentless attacks on journalists, activists and critics of the government in its review of the Philippines’ human rights practices.

“President Duterte has used the killing of thousands of largely poor drug suspects as a tool to bolster his popularity,” said HRW Asia director Bryan Adams.

Latest available data from the Philippine National Police released in November 2018 showed more than 5,000 personalities have died in anti-drug operations since Duterte assumed office in July 2016. Although some human rights groups believe thousands more remain unaccounted for.

Alleged extrajudicial killings of drug suspects have reached areas outside Metro Manila such as Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and some cities in Cebu and General Santos City, according to the report.

Duterte last July stayed firm in his campaign against illegal drugs, even noting that it will be as “relentless and chilling” as on the day it began.

International groups had called on the Philippine government to stop its bloody drug war, but the President remained unfazed amid all criticism.

Duterte in March announced the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, as resistance to the ICC’s move to launch a preliminary examination on the possibility of conducting a full-blown investigation on the drug war.

The European Union also urged the Philippines to end the abusive trend through a resolution, threatening to suspend trade benefits if necessary. Malacañang blasted the EU for interfering with the affairs of the Philippine state.

He has also repeatedly attacked Catholic Church officials for criticizing the war and other government policies, even threatening to kill priests and labeling them homosexuals.

(READ ALSO: ‘BETTER OFF DEAD’ | Duterte hits bishops anew for criticizing his beliefs)

Meanwhile, Adams sought international support for Philippine institutions, groups and the media who are “pressing the government to stop the killings and bring those responsible to justice.”

ON JOURNALISTS

The HRW report also scored the Duterte administration’s “ratcheted up” attack on media freedom–from banning online news outlet Rappler.com’s Malacañang reporter Pia Ranada, to filing tax evasion charges against site founder Maria Ressa, to the threat of closing Rappler altogether.

Last May, the House of Representatives proposed new regulations that would allow it to ban reporters who “besmirch” the reputation of the lower chamber and its officials.

Meanwhile, six journalist killings were reported this year, according to the HRW.

‘RARE TRIUMPHS’

The report likewise noted the two “triumphs of accountability” in the country the past year, particularly the conviction of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and two others, as well as the imprisonment of three police officers for the murder of 17-year-old Kian de los Santos in an anti-drug campaign.

Palparan was responsible for the 2006 kidnapping and illegal detention of still-missing Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, two student activists from the University of the Philippines who were abducted, raped and tortured by the military.

The Philippines was one of 100 countries reviewed by the HRW in its 674-page World Report 2019, which has been done for 29 years.