CHR tells Duterte: Preventing drug war deaths not by police also 'state responsibility'
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his speech during the PDP-Laban campaign rally at the Plaza Independencia in Cebu City on Feb. 24, 2019.
Presidential photo/Alfred Frias

CHR tells Duterte: Preventing drug war deaths not by police also 'state responsibility'

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - October 21, 2020 - 9:52pm

MANILA, Philippines — The human rights commission on Wednesday reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that it is also government's role to prevent anti-drug war deaths committed by other groups, after he said he should not be charged over deaths by unidentified individuals. 

Duterte early this week renewed his attacks on critics of his anti-illegal drug campaign where watchdogs have put the number of deaths to thousands, far from figures given by government. 

At an address supposedly for the coronavirus crisis, he said that while he could be held accountable for deaths under drug operations, "random killings" should not be put on him. 

"You can hold me responsible for any death that has occurred in the execution of the drug war," Duterte said in mixed English and Filipino. "But don't blame me for killings where you don't know who did it." 

Human rights commissioner Karen Dumpit, however, said it is "just as important" that authorities probe other drug-related deaths, even those not committed by police. 

"This is within state responsibility. Hindi lamang 'yan duty to stop killings or 'wag pumatay, pero duty din to prevent killings by third party," she told the One PH's Sa Totoo Lang. 

(It is not only the state's duty to stop killings or don't kill, but also to prevent killings by third party.) 

A report by Amnesty International in May had detailed the role vigilante groups or paid killers play in helping state forces carry out Duterte's drug war. 

"The constant incitement from the highest levels of the government has created a climate in which widespread killings by unknown armed persons are not simply
tolerated, but actively encouraged," the watchdog said. "In many instances, there seems to be an even more direct link between state authorities and “riding-intandem” cases."

Duterte is facing probe for alleged crimes against humanity before the International Court, where he pulled the Philippines out of for his anti-drug war. 

But Dumpit said government should see this as a chance to "present and demonstrate that they are really investigating all the killings. 

"Hindi lamang yung sinasabing 6,000 killings na nangyari as a result of police operations," she said. "What is important is each and every killing must be accounted for."

Dumpit also agreed with reports that drug killings during the hard coronavirus lockdowns in the country had resulted in more deaths committed in operations. 

"In a sense, it has worsened because the freedom of movement napaka kontrolado ngayon because of the pandemic," she said, "but the killings have not stopped."

The Human Rights Watch in a report last month said at least 155 have been killed from April to July of this year, months where movement were restricted as a precaution against COVID-19. Government officials have sought to refute these, despite the group's findings being based on figures released by authorities. 

Duterte has since vowed that his war on drugs will remain relentless for the remaining two years of his term, as is evident with him bringing up the issue in his weekly public address. 

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