Int'l rights group: Killings have had little impact on PH drug problem

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 02 2017 05:42 PM | Updated as of Mar 02 2017 07:17 PM

MANILA - The deaths allegedly caused by the administration's anti-narcotics drive have done very little to solve the Philippines' drug problem, an international human rights group said.

Human Rights Watch has done an extensive study on the Philippine government's war on drugs, interviewing victims' families and factoring in the recent Senate probe on the allegatioons. 

"We have to realize that 7,000 Filipinos are dead as a result of this policy, which has had very little impact on the drug problem in the Philippines, and we need to stop the killings now," Human Rights Watch Director for Emergencies Peter Bouckaert said in an interview with ANC's "Headstart."

Since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in July 2016, thousands of suspected drug users and traffickers have been killed.

However, the government is only taking responsibility for about 2,500 of these deaths, which it said was a result of legitimate police operations where most of the slain suspects resisted arrest.

The rest of the deaths were categorized as “under investigation” where most of the assailants, often called “vigilantes,” were unknown.

HRW said many of the drug suspects were intentionally killed, and that police are involved in extrajudicial killings. 

The group also questioned why no big-time drug personality has been caught so far. 

Bouckaert said that if he could speak with Duterte, he would tell the Philippines' chief executive that "his policies are not in the interest of the Philippines or the Filipino people."

"We acknowledge that there is a problem with drugs in the Philippines like there is in many countries, and instead of isolating the Philippines and himself from the rest of the world, we should work together to solve this problem by the best practices that have been developed around the world, by providing people with rehabilitation," he said.

"There are ways to deal with the drug crisis better than killing people in the streets and committing acts murder," he added.

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Bouckaert said more than the crimes against humanity committed by Iraq President Saddam Hussein, the case in the Philippines is more comparable to the situation in Thailand under Premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

"I think it's an important lesson and an important warning," he said.

In the Thaksin era, he said, "many more people were killed than were killed in the Philippines," and it continues to be a defining issue of the said period.

Bouckaert noted that one of the many reasons why the former leader cannot return to Thailand is "because he would probably be put on trial for the many killings that took place of drug suspects during his reign."

He added the same scenario happened in several Latin American regimes where leaders "committed grave abuse against their people" mostly in supposed fights against rebel groups. In these fights, he said many people "disappeared" and the commanders are still being held accountable to this day, decades after the abuses took place.

"People do not forget and people want accountability over these kinds of atrocities," said Bouckaert, adding that Duterte "certainly" may be called to court after his term.

"But the most important thing is what happens tomorrow, that these kinds of killings have to stop. Justice is important and it will happen down the line," he said.