Año confident government can disprove alleged killings, rights violations

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Año confident government can disprove alleged killings, rights violations
In this Feb. 18, 2019 photo, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año addresses questions from the press.
Philstar.com / Erwin Cagadas Jr.

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration intends to disprove allegations of documented and reported human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings in the face of renewed and resounding calls from the international community to address the issues, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Monday.

This comes amid threats from the European Union to impose trade sanctions—which Vice President Leni Robredo warned could affect as many as 200,000 Filipinos—on the Philippines if the issues raised in its resolution are not immediately addressed. 

Speaking in an interview aired over CNN Philippines, Año said: "I am concerned on that. I will make sure that those allegations, we'll be able to prove that they aren't true."

"Based on the latest data, crime went down by 47% compared to the same period last year. It has never been a policy of this government and the PNP to violate human rights, much more judicial killings...we will continue to prosecute anyone who violate those rules, violate human rights of our Filipino citizens," he also said. 

READ: EU Parliament condemns ‘rapidly deteriorating’ state of human rights, press freedom in Philippines

Official police data has recorded over 5,800 deaths in official police operations with police forces routinely claiming that only drug suspects who fought back have been killed. Estimates by local and international rights monitors say as many as 30,000 Filipinos have been casualties of the summary vigilante-style executions linked to the so-called "war on drugs."

In its resolution adopted Thursday, the European Parliament denounced what it said was the "rapid" deterioration of human rights and press freedom in the Philippines, citing the thousands of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations related to the administration's flagship "war on drugs," and the attacks and harassment against activists.

'Allegations from critics, leftist groups'

The New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch also reported earlier in May that killings linked to the government's anti-narcotics campaign went on undisturbed by the coronavirus-induced quarantines. 

In response to this claim, Año said: “We have to verify [those claims]…Those are allegations from critics, from the leftist groups, from human rights groups. We are checking those data. I really do not agree."

HRW's analysis was based on government and, according to its methodology, "primarily on in-person interviews that Human Rights Watch carried out between March 2018 and February 2020 in Manila, Caloocan City, Quezon City, Cebu City, General Santos City, and Quezon province."

READ: 'Drug war' deaths rise amid coronavirus pandemic — int'l rights monitor

In a dispatch, HRW Asia division researcher Carlos Conde wrote: "Human Rights Watch analyzed the government’s statistics and found 155 persons were killed in the past four months. Before the COVID-19 crisis, police killed 103 persons from December 2019 to March 2020...The number of fatalities in these ostensible drug enforcement raids, in which the police routinely claimed that the victims fought back, jumped dramatically from the 26 deaths recorded by the PDEA in five months from July to November 2019."

A separate report by VERA Files carried by Philstar.com also logged 53 drug-related killings since the announcement of enhanced community quarantine in March up until May, though they were careful to note that not all of the killings were linked to police operations.

Police Gen. Camilo Cascolan, chief of the national police, earlier Monday refuted allegations and said the public should look at the campaign's successes, saying: "Let me state for the record that human rights has never gotten in the way of the PNP campaign against illegal drugs and vice-versa, precisely because police anti-illegal drugs operations are consistent with Police Operational Procedures or rules of engagement that are founded on the fundamental principle to respect, protect and fulfill human rights; and to uphold the rule of law."

President Rodrigo Duterte is set to "address issues on justice and human rights" before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, according to Chief of Presidential Protocol for Foreign Affairs Robert Borje at a virtual briefing Monday.

RELATED: Majority of Filipinos see human rights violations in 'failing' drug war — SWS

"As we have said before, the Philippines is a country that partners with other countries and other blocks but its also important to respect the principles of sovereignty and non-interference. That's very basic in international law," Borje said.

with a report from Bella Perez-Rubio





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