CHR defends drug war report, says probe on rights violations part of mandate

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2022 06:18 PM

 

Relatives of drug war victims receive the cremated remains of their loved ones during a church ceremony in Quezon City on March 28, 2022, as part of Project Arise. Most of the victim's leased gravesites neared its expiry and the cremation was given for free. The project is in line with the Arnold Janssen Kalinga Foundation's Program Paghilom in assisting families of extrajudicial killing victims in healing and rebuilding their lives. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Relatives of drug war victims receive the cremated remains of their loved ones during a church ceremony in Quezon City on March 28, 2022, as part of Project Arise. Most of the victim's leased gravesites neared its expiry and the cremation was given for free. The project is in line with the Arnold Janssen Kalinga Foundation's Program Paghilom in assisting families of extrajudicial killing victims in healing and rebuilding their lives. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Commission on Human Rights on Monday reiterated that part of its mandate is to conduct investigations on human rights violations in the country, as stipulated by the 1987 Constitution.

This, as the agency received criticisms on its final report on the Duterte administration's war on drugs. The CHR noted in the report that the program failed to protect the rights of the victims of the crackdown and encouraged a "culture of impunity".

"Contrary to remarks that seek to put malice in the crucial work of CHR, our guide has always been the mandate bestowed unto us by the 1987 Constitution and the plight of the vulnerable people we serve," CHR Executive Director Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.

"As the country's independent National Human Rights Institution, it is our mandate to conduct investigations on human rights violations involving civil and political rights, particularly those affecting the marginalized and vulnerable sectors of the society." 

She also clarified that the CHR supports the campaign against illegal drugs, but it objects to the methods "that are inconsistent with human rights standards and right to due process."

"The Commission remained faithful in its efforts to protect and promote human rights in accordance with universal human rights principles and standards. It is, too, in this framework that the CHR, during the 5th Commission, demonstrated full cooperation and transparency with fellow duty bearers and human rights organizations with the objective of working together in addressing the human rights issues," De Guia said.

According to her, the final report supports their initial findings.

"The final report serves to bolster the initial findings of the Commission: that there is a consistent narrative by law enforcers alleging victims initiated aggression or resisted arrest (nanlaban); that there is use of excessive and disproportionate force; that targeted victims were mostly civilians killed in uninhabited locations sustaining gunshot wounds in the heads and/or torso; that there is non-cooperation by the police; and that there is a lack of effective, prompt, and transparent accountability mechanism to address the drug-related killings," she said.

The 48-page report completed in April and released last week said the CHR found that police showed "intent to kill" and used "excessive force" in drug operations.

"We stress that the comprehensive report also took into account law enforcers or police killed (pages 6-8) as well as killings by unidentified individuals outside of the context of police operations (pages 24-26). This is contrary to claims that there was no mention of law enforcers who lost their lives and of killings outside of police operations," De Guia said.

The CHR report analyzed 882 case dockets involving 1,139 victims, 920 of whom were killed.

Though law enforcers alleged the victims showed aggression or resisted arrest, the commission noted there were only 31 incidents where operatives sustained injuries. In 133 incidents, the CHR said witness accounts "state discrepancies and inconsistencies in the official police narratives."

"The use of excessive and disproportionate force is also evident in 329 incidents where a lone victim was killed in drug operations participated by a minimum of three well-trained and highly skilled police operatives, armed with highly reliable weapons," the report said.

De Guia expressed hope that the government will help the victims get the justice they deserve.

"CHR is hopeful of the government’s openness to ascertain justice. We reiterate our continued support and commitment to the government in the pursuit of truth and accountability. Constructive engagements among the different branches of the government, particularly if it involves independent bodies like CHR, manifest an adherence to the check and balance mechanisms within the government," she said.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, who acts as President Rodrigo Duterte's acting spokesman, said the CHR report presents a "rehash of old issues... that have already been responded to."

"In contrast to what a handful of critiques would want the international community to hear and read about our country, the Duterte Administration leaves a legacy of a safe and secure Philippines," Andanar said in a statement.

"Foreigners who come to the country as tourists are seeing how safe our streets and communities are, affirming the more than half in the drop in crime rate since President Rodrigo Roa Duterte took office in 2016, and validated by his high satisfaction, performance, approval and trust ratings at the end of his presidency," he added.

The official asked the CHR to "coordinate with the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat so that its recommendations may be discussed with all the government offices it has put to task."

De Guia said the report has already been formally communicated to the concerned government agencies, such as the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

"We are heartened by the remarks of Acting Presidential Spokesperson Sec. Martin Andanar, which acknowledged the CHR's independence and invited us to coordinate with concerned government agencies. We are hopeful that this signals greater cooperation and enhanced response of the government in bringing full justice to all alleged EJK cases linked to the anti-drug campaign," she said.

According to the government, 233,356 anti-illegal drugs operations have been conducted from July 1, 2016 until March 31 this year, resulting in the death of 6,241 people and the arrest of 336,796 others.

Rights groups allege that the death toll is higher.

The CHR earlier urged the incoming administration of presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to recalibrate its fight against illegal drugs.

Duterte is stepping down on June 30.

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