Philippine government says it doesn't sanction extra-judicial killings
MANILA (UPDATED) – The Philippines on Friday denied most propositions to improve its human rights situation during the United Nations’ (UN) Universal Periodic Review (UPR), including allowing an independent probe of alleged extrajudicial killings under its fierce campaign against illegal drugs.
During the 36th session of the UPR in Geneva, the Philippines welcomed only 103 recommendations out of the 257 it received, while taking note of the remaining 154.
However, the Philippines "accepts in principle" 99 of the 154 noted suggestions, according to Ambassador Evan Garcia.
He said the Duterte administration does not sanction extra-judicial killings and that it would not condone police abuses.
“The Philippines had sufficiently explained that deaths which occurred in the course of the implementation of the anti-illegal drugs campaign are not EJKs,” he said.
“These are deaths arising from legitimate law enforcement operations or deaths that require further investigation following the established rules of engagement by the country’s law enforcers," he added.
Garcia said the nation could not fully support the remaining 55 due to their "premises and context".
"Most if not all of these recs are sweeping if not vague, and even contradictory especially in the context of Philippine democratic processes," he said.
The review came as the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte continued to draw criticism over alleged police abuses in his fierce anti-drug campaign, including purported summary killings.
For one, the Philippines rejected Ghana's suggestion to allow Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, to investigate deaths under the drug war.
Callamard planned to undertake an investigation but the Duterte administration imposed conditions she deemed unacceptable, including a public debate with the President.
The Philippines also rejected a recommendation to protect freedom of expression, according to the Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development.
Manila claimed that those slain resisted arrest.
"While the increase in police operations had resulted in more people surrendering, there were also people who violently resisted arrest, which in turn led to more deaths. Although deaths arising from law enforcement operations were presumed to be legitimate, they were automatically investigated," the Philippines said in its report.
Latest police estimates placed the number of drug suspects slain in legitimate police operations at 3,800.
Human rights groups meanwhile placed the figure at 13,000, which the administration has described as overblown.
As the government explained in its report: "There had been a deliberate attempt to include all homicides related to the campaign against illegal drugs as extrajudicial killings and to say that they were State-sponsored, which was not true."
Although the Philippines accepted the United States' recommendations on implementing police operations consistent with the rule of law, the latter remains "greatly concerned" on extra-judicial killings.
"We urge the government to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into all reports of extrajudicial killings," US Ambassador Kathryn Keeley said.
The United Kingdom meanwhile urged the Philippines to protect human rights development.
"We call on the government of the Philippines to promote a safe, enabling environment for the work of human rights defenders, including through the adoption of a charter for the protection and recognition of human rights defenders," UK Ambassador Charles Kent said.
Human Rights Watch said it is dismayed that the Philippines “rejected all UPR recommendations that would make a practical difference in ending extrajudicial killings” under the war on drugs.
"It rejected Peru’s recommendation to cooperate with special procedures by extending a standing invitation, and recommendations by Ghana, Hungary and others to allow access to the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, without conditions that might compromise her impartiality," the group said in a statement.
HRW urged the UN Human Rights Council to step in and end the violent drug war if the Philippines will not comply with its international human rights responsibilities.