Human Rights Watch says that the United Nations should make an independent investigation on the Philippine National Police for the sudden rise of killings.
CHR welcomes suspension of PNP anti-drug operations
Kristian Javier ( - January 31, 2017 - 3:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights on Tuesday welcomed a suspension of the Philippine National Police's anti-drug operation over corruption issues.

"It is a recognition that the campaign is fraught with flaws and susceptible to abuse. It underscores the need to ensure a highly professionalized and competent police force that will be cognizant of the rights of the citizenry it seeks to protect," the commission said.

The commission -- and human rights in general -- have been seen by many, including the president, as obstacles to the war on drugs, which is popular despite reports of thousands of drug-related deaths.

PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Monday announced that anti-drug operation "Oplan Tokhang" will be suspended to make way for "internal cleansing" in police ranks after the alleged killing of a South Korean businessman by officers conducting anti-drug operations.

"Starting today, I am dissolving the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group and all anti-drug units from the national down to the police station level... All of these are now dissolved and deactivated. No more anti-drug operation," Dela Rosa said.

South Korean businessman Jee Ick-Joo was abducted and killed last October 2016 by anti-drug police officers at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame. Human Rights Watch, in a separate statement, said the incident suggests some police officers are using the war against drugs for "corrupt personnel gain."

The commission also said that while it supports the campaign against illegal drugs, "the evil that is sought to be prevented by the commission is abuse of power by state agents that wantonly disregard adherence to the rule of law and lack of respect for human rights."

About 7,000 suspected drug personalities have been killed since July 1 in President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-drug campaign. Police officers said that the 2,251 killed in the operations fought back and resisted arrest. HRW said however, that they were not able to provide sufficient evidence that they acted in self defense.

"The PNP must rise to the challenge to remain faithful to their sworn duty to serve the people and protect their rights.  It cannot and should not be an instrument of abuse lest it be the oppressor instead of the protector of the people," the Commission on Human Rights said.

UN urged to probe killings

Meawhile, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday that the United Nations should do an independent investigation on the Philippine National Police for the unlawful killings.

Phelim Kine, HRW Asia deputy Director, said that while the suspension of the anti-drug operations will reduce the killings, it will not stop unless a meaningful investigation is done on the 7,000 deaths already reported.

"The Philippine police won’t seriously investigate themselves, so the UN should take the lead in conducting an investigation," Kine said in a released statement on Tuesday.

READ: Tokhang frozen AIDG dissolved; PNP out of drug war

HRW said that the Philippines already undermined prior efforts of the UN to investigate the killings in the drug war when Foreign Affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay announced on Decmeber 14 that the Philippine Government cancelled the planned official visit of UN special rapporteur on extra Judicial killings Agnes Callamard.

This is due to Callamard asking for a private meeting instead of holding a public debate as stated by President Duterte.

"No, I want it discussed in public so she can state her case. If that’s what she did then I can refute her and ask her where did you get that garbage? What extrajudicial killings?" Duterte said.

READ: Duterte insists on public debate with UN special rapporteur

Callamard, for her part, asked the Philippine government to reconsider their demands, stating that a public debate does not comply with the Human Rights Council's code of conduct for special rapporteurs.

She explained that the condition to have a public debate could compromise the confidentiality of the victims' testimonies.

READ: UN rapporteur rejects Duterte's conditions on EJK probe

HRW also noted the lack of action by the PNP to investigate and prosecute the personnel responsible for the killings despite powerful evidence of police officers gunning down suspects.

They also noted that Dela Rosa did not made any mention of the additional 3,603 killings by unidentified gunmen in his announcement despite allegations that police officers in civilian clothes are committing "some and perhaps many" of the killings.

"Unless there is an independent international investigation into these killings, and soon, the already long list of grave rights violations linked to the ‘drug war’ will only continue to grow," Kine said.

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