'Tide is turning' for Duterte's 'drug war': HRW exec

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 09 2017 07:23 AM

MANILA - A director of the international group Human Rights Watch (HRW) believes the "tide is turning" for President Rodrigo Duterte, as more and more people, both here and abroad, are expressing concern about the killings under the "war on drugs."

Speaking to ABS-CBN News Sunday, Human Rights Watch Geneva director John Fisher noted that more and more countries are supporting the call to end the "drug war" killings.

"I think we're definitely seeing that the tide is turning," Fisher said as he concluded his Philippine visit. "It's quite measurable in the increase in support for the joint statement condemning the killings from 34 in June to 39 in September."

The HRW official was referring to the joint statement signed by 39 member-states of the United Nations (UN) last September following the Philippines' rejection of more than half of recommendations during the UN's Universal Periodic Review.

Locally, Fisher said he has been in touch with groups helping the loved ones of human rights violations victims and they told him that more are finding the courage to speak out against the killings under the war on drugs.

"What we are hearing in the many conversations we have with groups that are working for victims here is that more and more people are feeling nervous for themselves, feeling nervous for their families, and are beginning to speak out," he said.

"I think both national and internationally we're seeing a groundswell of support and we really hope the government heed these messages," he added.

UNHRC can initiate probe on PH's 'drug war'

Fisher said if the Philippine government continues to ignore calls for an objective investigation on the war on drugs, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) can initiate its own probe.

He stressed that as member of the UNHRC, the Philippines has obligations to uphold rights and to cooperate with the international human rights body's mechanisms in resolving cases.

The UNHRC has done this on the violations against the Rohingya in Myanmar, as well as the conflict in Yemen and in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fisher added.

"It's part of what the council does, to put in place these kinds of international investigations when the governments themselves can't or won't act," he said.

Fisher warned that if found guilty of violations, the Philippines can be kicked out of the UNHRC and may face sanctions as member-states begin to asses their bilateral relationship with the Southeast Asian country.

"It's certainly an international embarrassment for the Philippines if the General Assembly would take the step of removing them from the human rights council," he warned.

According to official government numbers, a total of 3,811 drug personalities were killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to August 29, 2017. Government data also said there were 6,225 drug-related killings from July 2016 and September 2017.