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Rights situation worsened after drug war launch — EU report

The report noted that the EU focused its attention on the second half of the year on the drug war, which enjoys considerable popular support, and the possible reintroduction of the death penalty. Human Rights Watch/Carlo Gabuco, File

MANILA, Philippines — The human rights situation in the Philippines has considerably worsened during the second half of 2016 as a consequence of the war on drugs despite some positive developments in some areas, the latest annual European Union (EU) Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World said.

The report noted that the EU focused its attention on the second half of the year on the drug war, which enjoys considerable popular support, and the possible reintroduction of the death penalty.

“The second half of the year was marked by a serious deterioration in respect for the right to life, due process and the rule of law,” it said.

It cited data from the Philippine National Police, which allegedly showed that the war on drugs led to the killing of about 6,000 people from July to mid-December, with one third of the deaths occurring in police operations.

More than 40,000 persons, it also said, were arrested in the same period.

“The President’s statements and actions have seemingly encouraged the police to take an aggressive approach in dealing with drug users and pushers, and have – according to human rights advocates – also encouraged vigilante style extrajudicial killings,” the report continued.

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Among the positive developments cited in the report are Duterte’s efforts for the Mindanao peace process, peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front, and the socio-economic agenda aimed at lifting people out of poverty.

“The Philippine government needs to ensure that the fight against drugs is conducted within the law, including the right to due process and safeguarding of the basic human rights of citizens of the Philippines, including the right to life, and that it respects the proportionality principle. This naturally includes the rights of human rights defenders,” the report said. 

The EU said it remains concerned about drug-related killings and the human rights situation and that this should not be seen as interference in the country’s domestic affairs.

Earlier, members of the European Parliament asked the EU to pressure the Philippines by considering the removal of the GSP+ status.

In September 2016, the European Parliament issued a resolution condemning the “many extrajudicial killings” and called for the immediate release of Sen. Leila de Lima, who is detained on illegal drug charges.

“One major problem in the Philippines is the prevailing culture of impunity since cases of grave human rights abuses, including killings of human rights defenders and media workers, remain largely unresolved,” the report said.

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