“It is through upholding the rights of the people, especially social and economic rights, that the people can repudiate the use and trade of illegal drugs.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – As the Senate started its investigation on Duterte’s so-called war on drugs, human rights groups called on the President to stop the killings.
From July 1 to August 19, 2016 alone, police have killed an estimated 712 suspected “drug pushers and users.” Philippine National Police Director-General Ronald dela Rosa attributed an additional 1,072 killings of alleged drug dealers and drug users to unknown vigilantes since July 1.
According to police statistics, 35 suspected drug pushers and users are killed per day during the last 50 days.
In its position paper submitted to the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, human rights alliance Karapatan said, “Duterte should say the word and act on it: Stop the Killings! Otherwise, his anti-drug quips encourage, rather than decisively halt the rampant killings without due process of suspects in drug-related cases.”
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said the President should prosecute and hold accountable the perpetrators of the extrajudicial killings, including those from the police.
Amnesty International, meanwhile, said Dela Rosa’s disclosure on the drug-related killings “is a terrifying indication that the authorities are grossly failing in their obligations to respect and protect the right to life.”
“The unlawful and deliberate killing carried out by state order, or with state’s complicity and acquiescence is an extrajudicial execution,” Amnesty International said. “This is a crime under international law.”
The group said States have an obligation to investigate and prosecute credible allegations of murder and extrajudicial executions and bring those suspected of criminal responsibility before justice in fair trials.
‘Worse than Arroyo-era extrajudicial killings’
For Vicente Ladlad, one of the peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Duterte’s war on drugs is worse than the extrajudicial killings of activists during the nine-year reign of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Karapatan recorded 1,190 victims of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo regime, from January 2001 to March 2010.
In an interview with Bulatlat last week, Ladlad said that during the peak of extrajudicial killings under Arroyo, two activists were killed per week. Under the Duterte administration, Ladlad lamented that drug-related killings in less than two months number more than a thousand.
“Activists and drug suspects are all humans,” Ladlad said.
The NDFP consultant added, “nothing could justify the extrajudicial killings of suspected drug users.”
“The sad part is that many of those killed belong to the poor while the suspected drug lords are the only ones given due process,” Ladlad said.
Ladlad noted a trend in police’s buy-bust operations – the suspects “resisted arrest”, suspects used one type of handgun; and, police confiscated a few kilograms of illegal drugs.
The anti-illegal drugs campaign of Duterte, Ladlad said, is turning out to be anti-democratic and anti-poor.
Human rights groups proposed alternatives to dealing with the problem of illegal drugs.
Amnesty International said the drug problem should be treated as a public health matter. The group recommends repealing or amending laws and policies that inhibit the access of people who use drugs to essential health services.
For Karapatan, the drug menace can be eliminated without curtailing the basic rights of the people, especially of the poor. “In fact, it is through upholding the rights of the people, especially social and economic rights, that the people can repudiate the use and trade of illegal drugs,” Palabay said.
Karapatan said the government should instead strive to improve the living conditions of Filipinos, especially the marginalized, by providing them secure jobs with living wages, free education and health care, and land to cultivate.