Crime & Justice

Philippine drug war deaths on the rise in pandemic, HRW says

Manila, Sep 9 (efe-epa).- Murders in the Philippine drug war increased by 50 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday.

Police killed 155 people in anti-drug operations between April and July 2020, up from 103 in the previous four months, between December 2019 and March 2020, according to statistics from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Administration (PDEA).

“Deaths in alleged anti-drug raids, which according to the police are almost all in self-defense, have increased dramatically in recent months from the 26 registered between July and November 2019,” the representative of HRW in the Philippines said Wednesday in a statement.

The PDEA said that some 5,810 people have died in these raids since the beginning of the war on drugs, launched by President Rodrigo Duterte in July 2016, a figure that the police raised last year to 6,700, although they later revised the data down.

However, humanitarian organizations and civil groups say that in the climate of impunity that surrounds the anti-narcotics campaign, between 27,000 and 30,000 people have been killed, a calculation supported by the UN.

“The PDEA figure only covers deaths in alleged police anti-drug operations. Thousands of suspects have been killed by unidentified assailants, many of whom are believed to be plainclothes policemen or vigilantes operating in coordination with local authorities,” Conde said.

In the entire campaign, only the murder of the minor Kian de los Santos in August 2017 resulted in a guilty conviction of three police officers implicated in the death.

Since mid-March, the Duterte government has imposed a strict quarantine on the country, especially harsh in Manila, where the police, peppered with numerous corruption scandals, are in charge of enforcing movement restrictions, leading to complaints of rights abuses in some cases.

“The UN Human Rights Council should once again address the issue of rights violations in the Philippines when it meets this month. The government is expected to continue to deny the allegations rather than offer a constructive response. But as its own statistics, atrocities in the war on drugs have worsened, even as the country suffers the worst in the region from the pandemic,” said Conde.

The Philippines is the main center of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia, with almost 242,000 infections – 5,900 are still active cases – and 3,916 deaths. EFE-EPA


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