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DILG takes offense at US State Department report on impunity of PH state forces

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DILG takes offense at US State Department report on impunity of PH state forces
Policemen stand guard near the body of a man killed during what police said was a drug-related vigilante killing in Barangay Manggahan in Pasig City early yesterday.
The STAR / Joven Cagande

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government panned the US State Department’s 2021 Country Report on Human Rights Practices released on the abuses by security forces in the Philippines, calling it "sweeping, rhetorical, and unfounded."

This comes after the US Department of State said that it received “credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses” in its 2021 Country Report on Human Rights Practices. 

The report pointed out — correctly, as even the national government's own data will show — that drug-related killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte's "war on drugs" continue in the Philippines.  

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año called the report "a mere repetition of unsubstantiated accusations against Philippine security forces that were loosely picked up from the traditional and social media, paints a grim picture of the country’s peace and order situation that is so far removed from the realities on the ground."

He added that the report "belittles the hard work and sacrifice of the men and women of the PNP and the AFP who have been risking their lives to fulfill their sworn duty to fight criminality and illegal drugs."

"The operations of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines down to the grassroots level have led to dramatic improvement of the general peace and security situation in the country since 2016," he claimed. 

"We join the Department of National Defense in posing a challenge to the US Department of State to substantiate their accusations so that we can properly address them through our internal mechanisms and the courts. Nonetheless, we will continue to do our sworn duty without fear or favor to maintain peace and order in our country."

The claim that the report is "unsubstantiated" is false. A cursory check of the report shows that it cited the government's own Commission on Human Rights, which said it had investigated 100 new complaints of alleged extrajudicial and politically motivated killings.

The commission investigated 130 victims allegedly perpetrated by 39 police personnel, eight military personnel, five insurgents, three local government officials and 45 unidentified persons. The CHR also investigated 49 drug-related killings with 53 victims with suspected police or Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency involvement.

It also pointed to the government's own data that acknowledges over 6,200 killings in official anti-drug operations by state forces. Rights groups both here and abroad say the true death toll could be as high as 30,000. 

Gov't on the defense once more

Año's statement comes a day after the PNP, an attached body of the DILG, also pushed back against the content of the US State Department report, which it said was "very sweeping."

"How come we already have 5,000 policemen that were already dismissed for various infractions? How come we see that the pride and morale of the police is high? How come they are delivering over the years?" Police Gen. Dionardo Carlos, PNP chief said in mixed Filipino and English. 

These echo the usual narratives employed by the administration in addressing killings over its so-called war on drugs.

To recall, a supposed "independent human rights probe" led by the DILG went as far as claiming that extrajudicial killings did not exist in the first few months of the Duterte administration. 

Progress in cases of the government investigating itself has meanwhile been slow to nonexistent. The Commission on Human Rights has cast doubt on the government's transparency in these probes, saying that investigations into thousands of other "drug war" cases are still pending, with only a handful of cases actually reaching the courts.

President Rodrigo Duterte has lashed out against international bodies — including the United Nations — calling for an investigation into his flagship project. 

All the while, illegal drugs in the Philippines are cheaper than ever. In 2020, crystal methamphetamines or shabu was found to still be behind the most arrest and treatment admissions in the Philippines, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported

"Local and international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch described widespread impunity for killings. There were no prosecutions or convictions for extrajudicial killings in the year to October and three since the start of the drug war in 2016," the US State Department said in its report.

"Human rights groups continued to express concern about abuses committed by the national police and other security forces and noted little progress in reforms aimed at improving investigations and prosecutions of suspected human rights violations."

— Franco Luna with a report from Patricia Lourdes Viray 

DILG

PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE

PNP

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