Año: Government 'taking great measures' to protect human rights in 'drug war'
In this Feb. 18, 2019 photo, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año addresses questions from the press.
Philstar.com/Erwin Cagadas Jr.
Año: Government 'taking great measures' to protect human rights in 'drug war'
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - September 24, 2020 - 7:10pm

MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Eduardo Año values and "appreciates" the concern shown by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the alleged human rights violations in the government’s drive against illegal drugs in the Philippines, he said Thursday. 

In a statement, Año changed his tone from just a few days ago, when he brushed off the reports as "fake news" perpetrated by "leftist groups" on Monday despite the claims being corroborated by government data. 

At the time, the interior secretary said he was intent on proving the allegations to be false and pointed to the lower crime rate in the country, although he employed figures that did not account for drug-related cases. 

READ: Fact check: Reported increase in 'drug war' deaths amid pandemic is backed by gov't data

"We would like to clarify that in the drug war, we are taking great measures in ensuring that the individual rights of the Filipino people are duly respected and protected," he wrote in his statement. 

"We likewise do not tolerate human rights violations as we have already prosecuted the killers of slain victim Kian Delos Santos as well as dismissed cops proven to have committed abusive and unacceptable behavior in their line of duty," he also said. 

The convictions over the murder of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos have been hailed as a rare victory for accountability in deaths in the "war on drugs."

The government's own data acknowledges 5,800 deaths in the campaign, which authorities say were caused by suspects figthing back. Human rights groups both here and abroad say the number could be as high as 30,000. 

The UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights and the European Parliament have called on the Philippine government to remove its policies linked to the drug war deaths, with the latter even threatening to impose trade sanctions on the country should it fail to do so. 

Instead of addressing and refuting the allegations like he said he would do, Año flat-out disregarded them in his latest statement, pointing instead to the "checks and balances" in place within the national police and the department's supposed compliance to human rights laws. 

"We at the DILG are fully committed to abiding by the 1987 Philippine Constitution and swear to respect every individual’s rights as we, together with the interior and local government sectors, serve and protect the Filipino people," he wrote. 

The chief executive took on much of the same approach at the UN meet late Tuesday night, opting instead to discredit his critics and disregard the allegations held against him. 

"A number of groups weaponized human rights, some well meaning, some ill intentioned. Detractors pass themselves off as human rights advocates, hide their misdeeds under the blanket of human rights. Even schools are not spared from their malevolence and anti government propaganda. They hide under human rights but the blood oozes through," he said.  

"The Philippines will continue to protect human rights from scourge of illegal drugs, criminality, terrorism," he added. 

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