Duterte's attribution of 'drug war' killings to drug syndicates 'a ruse,' HRW says
File — Police officers investigate an alleged drug dealer killed by an unidentified gunman in Manila.
Duterte's attribution of 'drug war' killings to drug syndicates 'a ruse,' HRW says
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - October 6, 2020 - 6:39pm

MANILA, Philippines — A rights watchdog soundly rejected President Rodrigo Duterte's recent assertion that feuding drug gangs are responsible for the extrajudicial killings linked to his flagship campaign against illegal drugs. 

"President Duterte’s claim that thousands of extrajudicial killings since 2016 are the result of rivalry between drug syndicates is specious, self-serving, and utterly without basis," Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said Tuesday. 

"No one should forget that the 'drug war' killings [began] immediately after Duterte was elected as president in 2016. Since then, thousands have died and with the exception of the case of Kian de los Santos, there has been no successful prosecution of either police officers or mysterious civilian killers," he added. 

In a pre-recorded televised address aired Monday night, Duterte claimed that he once conducted a "discreet hearing" on the EJKs linked to his campaign against illegal drugs. "What reached me is that sometimes there is a rivalry of turf," he said in English and Filipino. 

HRW cast doubt on whether the hearing took place at all, arguing that its "far-fetched conclusion was never disclosed to the public." 

"If Duterte had serious doubts about the conduct of the police, all he needed to do was announce a thorough, credible investigation. Instead, he made sure that experienced international investigators, such as the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard, were not permitted to set foot in the Philippines," Robertson said. 

The president previously threatened to slap Callamard if she began her probe into the EJKs linked to the drug war. He also called former UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Huseein an “idiot” in 2016 and “empty-headed” in 2018. 

"[HRW] and other groups credibly established that police or other local authorities perpetrated most of the killings. In many of these incidents, police routinely manufacture evidence, by planting drugs and weapons on dead suspects at the scene of the alleged crime, to justify their claim that the suspects had fought back," Robertson added. 

He also pointed out that both the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency acknowledge that their anti-drug operations have resulted in the death of nearly 6,000 individuals. Despite this, HRW said the agencies have "no investigations to show in virtually all these cases." 

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. Multiple rights groups in the Philippines estimate that the drug war's fatalities are as high as 30,000.

"Once again, Duterte is manufacturing a story, or ‘fake news’ to use the moniker he likes to use, to divert attention from killers in the ranks of the police to so-called drug syndicates. No one should be fooled by the president’s latest ruse," Robertson said. 

Sen. Ping Lacson on Tuesday told reporters from Inquirer and ABS-CBN that while it may be "partly true" that some of the EJKs can be linked to rivalries between drug syndicates, "it cannot also be denied that rogue members of the law enforcement resort to killing drug suspects for various reasons." He added that this was "already validated when the Senate conducted inquiries sometime ago." 

Lacson, a former national police chief, was chairman of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs when the upper chamber conducted a probe into the extrajudicial killings in 2016.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 29, 2019 - 4:54pm

Reuters wins Pulitzers, the most prestigious awards in American journalism, in international reporting for its story on the methods of police killing squads in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and for feature photography documenting the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

In covering the deadly drug war in the Philippines, Reuters reporters Clare Baldwin, Andrew R.C. Marshall and Manuel Mogato "demonstrated how police in the president’s 'drug war' have killed with impunity and consistently been shielded from prosecution," Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler says.

November 29, 2019 - 4:54pm

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima says the "success" of President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war can never be measured by his "mere boasts that he has dumped bodies in Manila Bay and the Cordilleras."

"How do we know that they were really drug lords if there was no trial to establish their guilt?" De Lima asks.

"Drug lords or not, they were human beings. And to kill a human being is the greatest crime of all. There are no ifs or buts about this," the senator adds. 

November 27, 2019 - 7:45am

PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa says P2.5 billion worth of shabu was seized from a Chinese national in Makati City. — The STAR/Manny Tupas

November 6, 2019 - 1:32pm

Vice President Leni Robredo has accepted President Rodrigo Duterte's offer to be the co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, a designation announced by the Palace on Tuesday.

Acknowledging that there are concerns that the designation is an attempt to pass on the perceived failure of the "war on drugs" so far and an attempt to keep her from criticizing the government's policy on drugs, Robredo says in Filipino that "if this is a chance to stop the killing of innocents and to hold accountable those who must be held accountable, I will take it on."

"I accept the task that the president has given me."


November 6, 2019 - 8:35am

Erin Tañada, Liberal Party vice president for external affairs, says that President Rodrigo Duterte's move to formally name Vice President Leni Robredo as one of the heads of an inter-agency body on illegal drugs is an admission that he failed to fulfill his campaign promise. 

Robredo would not allow to be an instrument of the bloody drug war, according to Tañada.  

"Kaya hindi tatanggapin ni VP Leni ang alok na pumatay para sa huwad na war on drugs. Hindi war on drugs ang nangyayari, kundi war on the poor," the LP official says.

November 5, 2019 - 6:25pm

Vice President Leni Robredo is not yet a member of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs despite a letter from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea designating her as co-chair of the panel, her spokesperson says Tuesday.

"Tomorrow she will be presenting to the president her proposals," her spokesperson Barry Gutierrez says in a press briefing, adding Robredo is focused on what she will present to President Rodrigo Duterte, who challenged her to take over the "war on drugs" in response to her comments that the campaign may need to be reassessed and "tweaked."

He says Robredo will be presenting the proposals "directly as vice president," adding the position of co-chair of the ICAD might not even exist.

Executive Order No. 15, issued in 2007, names the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the chair of the ICAD. There is no provision in the EO for a co-chair.

Gutierrez says a serious offer would have, for example, an actual position and the letter of designation would include specific powers and authority of the position.

The vice president's spokesperson said the move seems to be an "[attempt] to pass on the failures of the past three and a half years to the vice president." 

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