Gov't data shows 'drug war' deaths increased by 76% in August â int'l rights monitor
In this 2016 photo, crime scene investigators are hunched over the body of Romeo Fontanilla. His killers were two men on a motorbike.
Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times/World Press Photo via AP, File
Gov't data shows 'drug war' deaths increased by 76% in August — int'l rights monitor
Bella Perez-Rubio ( - September 29, 2020 - 10:42am

MANILA, Philippines — An international rights watchdog on Tuesday logged another spike in the extrajudicial killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs.  

The report, released by Human Rights Watch, was based on government data and showed that "drug war" deaths rose to 76% in August compared to the four months previous. A total of 46 deaths were reported by the government in August.  

This marks another rise in reported deaths, with the months of April to July already marking a 50% increase with an average of 39 deaths as compared to the months of December 2019 to March 2020 when the average monthly death rate was 26. 

Drug war victims are 'sitting ducks' amid community quarantine

"'Drug war' operations are typically carried out in urban areas in major cities, targeting impoverished communities that are facing the dual increased risk from the anti-drug campaign and the pandemic. During the lockdown, these communities have been hemmed in by police and local governments, with residents largely confined to their homes," HRW said.  

According to the group, the community quarantine has effectively made urban poor communities "sitting ducks for anti-drug raids by the police and their agents." It has been 196 days since the Philippines was first placed under lockdown. 

Newly-minted PNP chief General Camilo Cascolan has denied that these EJKs ever occurred but has also said that police officers died during anti-drug operations. 

The government's own data recognizes 5,856 persons killed in anti-drug operations as of end August, only counting "police killings and not those by gunmen linked to the police," HRW said. Police routinely parrot the narrative that drug suspects fought back violently and forced their hand. 

However, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in June, placed drug war fatalities at a much higher 8,000. 

"Domestic human rights groups and the governmental Commission on Human Rights believe the actual toll is triple that number," HRW said. Multiple rights groups in the Philippines estimate that the drug war's fatalities are as high as 30,000. 

"These numbers are horrifying however you add them up. That even more are occurring under cheerleading President Duterte, as Filipinos endure lockdowns, checkpoints, and quarantines in place to stop the spread of Covid-19 is further reason for the Human Rights Council to step in and investigate the country’s human rights violations," the rights group said.

"As long as the 'drug war' remains official policy, the killings will continue and impunity will remain rife." 

Government questions own data 

Last Friday, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP director for deputy administration, denied that EJKs increased by half from April to July, claiming that they rose by 5% based on the national police's data. 

Malacañang similarly dismissed HRW's analysis, with Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar alleging that it had "weak methodological anchor and severely falsifies realities in the country."

However, both the previous report and the one released Tuesday, HRW said, are based on Real Numbers PH, the government's unitary report on its campaign against illegal drugs which is issued by the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

READ: Analysis on 'drug war' deaths that PCOO rejected is from data that PCOO released — Human Rights Watch | PNP on HRW report: 'Drug war' deaths increased by 5%, not 50%, amid pandemic

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