Palace hits back, says no 'shoot-to-kill' order vs. drug suspects
MANILA (UPDATE) — The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights on Monday said he is "gravely concerned" about President Rodrigo Duterte's "open support for a shoot-to-kill policy" against drug suspects as part of his anti-drug campaign.
In a speech at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein also cited the slow justice for victims of these killings in the Philippines.
"In the Philippines, I continue to be gravely concerned by the President's open support for a shoot-to-kill policy regarding suspects, as well as by the apparent absence of credible investigations into reports of thousands of extrajudicial killings, and the failure to prosecute any perpetrator," he said.
In response, Malacañang hit the UN rights chief's "sweeping" statement and asserted that the President has not given any shoot-to-kill order under his drug war.
“We are deeply concerned with... High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein’s sweeping statements during the UNHR Council's 36th session, citing instances bereft of factual basis,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“[Zeid’s] broad references about the supposed policies of the President run counter to what he continues to pronounce. The President has categorically and repeatedly said that there is no shoot-to-kill order. All drug killings are subject to investigations," he added.
The Duterte administration has many times defended the drug war, saying it does not sanction executions of drug suspects.
In his speech, Zeid cited the death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos in an anti-drug operation in Caloocan City after allegedly shooting at police officers. Witnesses said police accosted the boy, gave him a gun and told him to run for his life.
Duterte promised justice for the boy's death and said officers behind his killing would be sent to jail if guilty for committing a "rubout."
He also warned police against committing abuses and reminded them to follow the rules of engagement.
In his statement, the UN rights chief condemned the President's defense of police who do not follow due process.
"This lack of respect for the due process rights of all Filipinos is appalling," he said.
The human rights chief also expressed concern over Duterte's threat to bomb Lumad schools for allegedly spreading subversive ideas. The military has said it would not literally take the President's statement.
"I am also shocked by President Duterte's threat to bomb schools for indigenous children in the southern Philippines, which he said were teaching children to rebel against the government," he said.
Zeid urged the Duterte administration to protect human rights defenders, particularly those who allegedly "are part of the drug trade or who obstruct justice" like detained Sen. Leila de Lima.
De Lima, among the administration's most vocal critics, has been detained since February on drug charges. She has decried the allegations as political persecution.
"Many human rights defenders who are the honor of their country face a growing number of death threats, and I call on the Government to ensure they are accorded full protection and the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly without reprisals," he said.
Duterte earlier hit back at the UN for its criticism of his war on drugs, at one point even threatening to pull the country out of the world body. He later clarified it was just a joke.
Drug-related deaths in the Philippines were among the issues Zeid tackled in his speech. He also addressed human rights concerns in war-torn Syria, the plight of Rohingya refugees in Myanmar, and repression in North Korea, among others.
According to government data (PDEA/PNP/NBI), a total of 3,811 drug personalities were killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to August 29, 2017.
This translates to an average of 9 drug personalities killed daily in anti-drug operations since the Duterte administration took over.