Next Philippine president should make human rights a priority issue — HRW

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Next Philippine president should make human rights a priority issue � HRW
A relative of a victim of an extra-judicial killing attends a memorial mass ahead of All Soul's Day to remember loved ones slain in the government's war on drugs, at the Commission on Human Rights in Manila on October 29, 2021.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — The candidate who will replace President Rodrigo Duterte as the leader of the Philippines should prioritize reversing policies that led to “unmitigated disaster for human rights,” New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said.

HRW Asia director Brad Adams urged presidential candidates in the May elections to make human rights a priority issue by speaking out about the situation in the country, and steps that need to be taken to end ongoing violations and provide accountability for past abuses.

“The past six years of the Duterte administration have been an unmitigated disaster for human rights, namely the murderous ‘drug war,’ harassment of the media, and killing of ‘red-tagged’ activists,” Adams said Thursday.

“The next administration should stop the killings, ensure accountability, and support laws that protect basic rights,” he added.

In its World Report 2022, which reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries, HRW said that serious human rights abuses continued in the Philippines in 2021.

It cited the administration’s violent war on drugs, which has led to over 6,000 deaths in police operations, according to the government. But rights groups estimated the death toll to reach 30,000.

HRW also observed an increase in attacks against activists, human rights defenders, and journalists.

“Killings of civilians and ‘red-tagging’—accusing activists and others of being combatants or supporters of the communist New People’s Army—are endemic to the government’s counterinsurgency campaign. Many of those red-tagged are subsequently killed,” the report read.

The rights watchdog also called on presidential aspirants to express their willingness to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court, which agreed to open a formal investigation into drug war killings and executions in Davao City from 2011 to 2016.

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan temporarily suspended the probe at Manila’s request. But the Hague-based tribunal asked the government to prove it is really investigating thousands of killings.

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