File photo shows people lighting candles to protest drug war killings.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, File
Deaths in anti-drug campaign 'more than mere numbers,' CHR stresses
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - June 27, 2019 - 4:49pm

MANILA, Philippines — Deaths in the government's "war on drugs" cannot be reduced to just numbers, the Commission on Human Rights said Thursday, the same week that the United Nations human rights commisioner expressed concern on the rising number of casualties in the campaign.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Monday at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council that the “extraordinarily high number of deaths” and “persistent reports of extrajudicial killings” in the drug war continue in the country.

She said "even the officially confirmed number of 5,425 deaths would be a matter of most serious concern for any country."

The Philippine National Police countered that the "the varying numbers reported to UNHCHR by the special rapporteurs and its other sources were not consistent with truth." Some rights groups have estimates of as many as 27,000 killed. 

Figures from the PNP released earlier this month put the number of "drug personalities" killed in law enforcement operations at 6,600, higher than the number Bachelet gave.

'One death too many'

In a statement Thursday, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia said curbing the Philippines' drug problem should not come at the expense of people's rights and of their lives.

“We continue to assert that all lives are sacred. One death is too many,” De Guia said.

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“While it is true that reports on the casualties of the government’s anti-drug campaign vary, the reality remains that these are more than mere numbers, but human lives lost, which have left children, wives, and families grieving and demanding for justice,” De Guia said.

She noted the Philippines should uphold the highest standards in the protection and promotion of human rights, including participating in the human rights mechanisms of the UN, as part of the Human Rights Council.

“We then urge the government to take calls of concern as opportunities to clarify issues and forge stronger partnerships with the community of nations, rather than vilify legitimate concerns and parties, who equally hold protecting rights and respect for human life and dignity as universal and primordial concerns,” De Guia said.

Earlier this month, 11 UN special rapporteurs called on the Human Rights Council to launch an independent probe into the alleged human rights violation in the country.

The Philippine government has repeatedly said that extrajudicial killings are not state policy and that law enforcement operations are done according to due process.

It has also said that it recognizes and upholds human rights and that allegations of abuse are attempts to discredit the administration.

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