MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano practically "acknowledged" extra-judicial killings when he told Al Jazeera's "UpFront" that 3,800 alleged drug dealers had been killed in the drug war, an international human rights watchdog official said Sunday.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News Sunday, Human Rights Watch Geneva director John Fisher said that in the cases Cayetano mentioned, the alleged drug dealers were shot dead without undergoing judicial process -- which fits directly into the definition of an extra-judicial killing.
"It's significant that in the interview Foreign Affairs Secretary Cayetano also acknowledged and then denied that there had been thousands of people killed in the so-called war on drugs," said Fisher who recently visited Manila to talk to human rights groups.
"All these cases, these are individuals who have been simply shot as they were going about their business. There's no judicial process... That's why they're called extra-judicial executions because it's without judicial proceedings," he added.
During the interview "UpFront" host Mehdi Hasan asked Cayetano if all suspects in the police’s anti-drug operations he mentioned were criminal drug dealers, despite not being tried in court. The Foreign Affairs secretary said: “Yes.”
Cayetano proceeded to defend the police's lethal use of force, saying: "If someone pulls a gun on the police, they have to bring them to court first before they fire back? The police are doing what they can."
Meanwhile, Fisher also said he finds it hard to believe Cayetano when he said all these killings in police operations are being investigated as the Philippine government did not allow for an independent probe on the drug war killings during the UN's Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
During the 36th session of the UPR in Geneva last month, 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" only 99 of the 154 noted suggestions.
"The Philippine government rejected the recommendations to conduct investigation into the deaths. So it's hard to reconcile Secretary Cayetano's suggestions that these deaths are being investigated with their refusal before the UN to agree to investigate all of these," said Fisher.
Fisher also disputed Cayetano's remarks saying certain human rights group associated with the opposition and some people in the Philippine Catholic Church are behind the negative perception on the drug war in the international community.
"We have absolutely no political side. Human Rights Watch receives no funding from any government. We work in 90 countries around the world, and in all those countries, whenever we criticize a government, we're accused of anything and everything across the spectrum because governments don't like us," he said.
Fisher stressed the HRW's sole interest in investigating countries is to bring to light evidence of human rights violations as victims in these places have virtually no one to run to.