At least 122 children killed in governmentâs drug war â report
The mother views the coffin of her three-year-old baby Kateleen Myca Ulpina, killed during a sting operation conducted by the police, is seen during her wake in Rodriguez, Rizal, east of Manila on July 5, 2019.
AFP/Noel Celis
At least 122 children killed in government’s drug war — report
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - June 30, 2020 - 10:18am

MANILA, Philippines — At least 122 children have been killed in the government’s war on drugs—often directly and deliberately targeted—two organizations said as they called on the United Nations and other international bodies to take action.

In a report released ahead of the three-week session of the UN Human Rights Council, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Philippine-based Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center documented 122 killings of children—aged one to 17 years old—between July 2016 and December 2019.

At least seven children have been also killed from January to March of this year.

The non-governmental organizations fear that real figure of killed children is higher.

“This number is a minimum: with parents and relatives often too afraid of reprisals to report or testify, it is likely that the actual figures are higher,” the report read. 

They said children were directly targeted, sometimes for witnessing other killings; killed as proxies when real targets could not be found; victims of mistaken identity; or killed by stray bullets during police operations.  

The report focused six cases, including that of a seven-year-old boy that was killed because he had witnessed a shooting of another person.

“These revelations must be a wake-up call for the international community, who has been largely absent as the Philippine government has kept trampling human rights,” Gerald Staberock, OMCT secretary general, said in a release.

“Over the past four years, we have hardly seen any meaningful reaction to the wanton killing of thousands of people under the pretext of the ‘war on drugs,’ targeting of the poorest and most marginalized citizens of the Philippines, and the persecution of human rights defenders, many of whom are in prison for their legitimate work. It is the total lack of accountability that feeds the cycle of violence, including the war on children we are witnessing,” he added.

Direct targets

OMCT and CLRDC said in the report that children were actually targeted during police operations.

“Far from being only ‘collateral damage,’ as callously stated by President Rodrigo Duterte, these have been often deliberate killings,” the two NGOs said.

“Our investigations show that 38.5% were carried out by policemen as [part] of police operations, while 61.5% were executed by unknown individuals, often masked or hooded assailants, some of them with direct links to the police,” they added.

In 2019, Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, former country's top cop, dismissed the death of a toddler in a police drug bust with an expletive and as collateral damage.

READDela Rosa on 3-year-old's death in drug bust: 'Shit happens'

UN report

A report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights released early this month said that the that human rights concerns in the Philippines have become “more acute” in recent years as manifested by the “widespread and systematic killing” of thousands of alleged drug personalities.

Latest government figures put the number of alleged drug personalities killed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs at 5,601. But it is significantly lower than the estimates by human rights watchdogs of as many as 27,000 killed. 

The Philippine government has maintained that all "drug personalities" killed had forced law enforcement to shoot them by violently resisting arrest.

The UN Human Rights Office also said there has been “near impunity” for drug war killings with only one conviction—for the murder of 17-year-old school boy Kian delos Santos in 2017. 

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet will formally present her office’s report on the human rights situation in the Philippines to the Human Rights Council Tuesday. The Philippine government is also expected to make a statement.

The two organizations called on the UN to establish an international on-the-ground, impartial, independent investigation into alleged human rights violations in the Philippines, especially of children. They also urged the International Criminal Court to fasttrack the preliminary examination into the situation in the Philippines.

“Despite the constitutional recognition of the importance of the role of children and youth in the Philippines, the concrete situation of the most marginalized children, killed in a culture of violence, fear, and impunity sowed by the current administration shows a different reality,” they said.

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