US Congress human rights commission to probe PH drug war

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 18 2017 10:35 PM

MANILA- The human rights body of the United States House of Representatives is set to hold on Thursday a hearing on "the human rights consequences of the ‘war on drugs’ currently underway in the Philippines."

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bi-partisan caucus in the US House of Representatives, has invited resource persons to analyze the implementation of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs and reported extrajudicial killings related to the campaign.

Among those invited are I-Defend Philippines Spokesperson Ellecer Carlos, Amnesty International Senior Crisis Advisor Matthew Wells, and Human Rights Watch Asia Division Deputy Director Phelim Kine.

The commission said "reports of extrajudicial killings raise questions about how the United States should balance its concerns for protecting human rights and the rule of law with its desire to maintain the bilateral alliance and continue to pursue other shared goals."

The US, a long-standing Philippine ally, has been keeping a sharp eye on Duterte's drug war, with some American senators proposing to restrict US arms exports to the Philippines because of the reported abuses. 

Duterte has, meanwhile, lashed out at the US over its criticism of the drug war, vowing to pursue an independent foreign policy that shifts to closer partnerships with non-traditional allies such as China and Russia. 

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, who recently met with Duterte, is optimistic that the Philippines remains committed to the long-standing alliance. 

Speaking to ANC, Kine said the upcoming hearing reflects "the deepening international concern at what is nothing less than a human rights calamity that President Rodrigo Duterte has unleashed on the Philippines in the guise of this so-called war on drugs."

Kine said the campaign was "nothing less than a war on the poor, [as it has] killed untold thousands of people and has resulted in horrific overcrowding of detention facilities and jails." 

He said it has "also sparked a severe killing of freedom of expression in the Philippines, because people who challenged the president's narrative about his abusive war on drugs is subjected to harassment, intimidation both online and in the public sphere."

Kine also expressed hopes that the hearing would shed light on current conditions in the Philippines.

"The best that it could do to the Philippines is shine a much needed light on this abusive 'war on drugs' that President Duterte has unleashed... [H]opefully, it will solidify resolve within and among US lawmakers that the United States' relationship with the Philippines during this current human rights emergency in the Philippines, it cannot be business as usual," Kine said.

The hearing, to be held in Capitol Hill in Washington at 10 a.m. (10 p.m. in the Philippines), will be open to members of the US Congress, congressional staff, the interested public, and the media. 

The Duterte administration has many times defended its drug war against critics, saying reported figures- from 7,000 to 9,000- were overblown.

Latest Philippine National Police (PNP) data show that a total of 3,200 drug personalities were killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017, or 9 killed daily in presumed legitimate anti-drug operations in the first year of the Duterte administration. 

The PNP has also determined that out of the 12,833 homicide cases from July 1, 2016 to June 16, 2017, 2,098 deaths were drug-related and 2,535 non-drug related. A total of 8,200 homicide cases were under investigation "with motives to be determined," the PNP said. 

This week, a delegation of European Union (EU) parliamentarians are also in Manila to check on the political and human rights situation in the country under Duterte.