Geneva, Jun 30 (efe-epa).- The war on drugs waged by the Philippines government has had a disastrous impact on human rights resulting in widespread extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and the persecution of thousands of people, United Nations human rights high commissioner Michelle Bachelet warned Tuesday.
“The findings of the report were very serious. Law and policies to counter national security threats and illegal drugs have been crafted and implemented in ways that severely impact human rights,” Bachelet told the Human Rights Council during its 44th session.
The OHCHR, headed by the former president of Chile, was tasked with monitoring the situation in the Philippines and met with representatives of Rodrigo Duterte’s government in Geneva and Bangkok, as they were blocked from entering the Philippines.
“The report also finds that serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, have resulted from key policies driving the so-called war on drugs and incitement to violence from the highest levels of government,” the UN rights chief said.
“The campaign against illegal drugs is being carried out without due regard for the rule of law, due process and the human rights of people who may be using or selling drugs,” she added.
“The report finds that the killings have been widespread and systematic—and they are ongoing.”
According to the report, 248 Filipinos were killed between 2015 and 2019.
The victims were mostly environmental and indigenous activists, including lawyers, trade unionists and journalists, who are often branded as terrorists by the Duterte regime.
During the Human Rights Council session, Philippine justice minister Menardo Guevarra said Duterte’s four-year anti-drug campaign enjoyed “broad and strong popular support” and added that the police have internal mechanisms to investigate excess use of force.
Guevarra did not explain why Bachelet’s collaborators were blocked from entering the country to make a direct assessment of the situation.
The high commissioner also warned that the recently approved anti-terror bill, which is pending Duterte’s approval, does not clearly distinguish between what may be criminal terrorism and criticism of the government.
Bachelet said the new bill could have a terrifying effect on human rights and humanitarian work and urged the president to ditch it.
“I hope the report will mark the beginning of the end of impunity for serious human rights violations in the Philippines,” she added.
“The families of victims, and the country’s courageous human rights defenders, count on the international community for help to address these ongoing and serious human rights issues—and for the Council to rise up to its prevention mandate.”
“It is not enough to argue that the government’s heavy-handed policies remain popular in the country,” she continued.
“Because victims tend to be from lower socio-economic classes and relatively disempowered communities, there is an even stronger imperative to ensure their protection.”
The justice minister has defended the government’s position saying that such accusations “are unfounded when there is a system that offers all avenues to examine, establish and pursue a complaint for infringement by a state agent”.
The report coincides with the fourth anniversary of Duterte’s rise to power after he won elections in 2016 with a ruthless campaign to end illegal drugs in the country. EFE-EPA