MANILA—A New York-based watchdog urged the Philippine government to investigate the spate of killings of leftist activists amid a "deteriorating" human rights situation in the country.
"The recent killings underscore that attacks on leftist activists is a serious human rights problem in the Philippines that has never gone away," said Carlos Conde, Philippine researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW). "The Philippine authorities should fully investigate these killings and bring those responsible to justice."
HRW also called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate "the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines, including the thousands of unlawful killings under the Rodrigo Duterte administration’s murderous 'war on drugs,' the killing of activists, and other serious human rights violations."
On June 17, unidentified gunmen shot dead Neptali Morada in Naga City, Camarines Sur. He was affiliated with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), an alliance of left-wing organization, and was a former staff member of a local politician.
A day earlier, assailants shot and killed Nonoy Palma, a member of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Bukidnon.
On June 15, gunmen killed Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala volunteers for the human rights group Karapatan in Sorsogon.
On June 2, a gunman on a motorbike fatally shot Dennis Sequena, a labor organizer from Partido Manggagawa in Cavite.
The watchdog, who has documented the killings of activists, peasant leaders and labor organizers over the years, has linked many of these killings to members of the military, police or security force-backed militias.
It added that "very few of the killings of activists over the years have been seriously investigated, and hardly any have resulted in convictions.
The watchdog said government officials have recently accused leftist groups that operate openly and legally of being communists, a label that can place their members at grave risk.
Journalists and lawyers’ groups critical of the Duterte administration have also been subjected to “red-tagging.”
"UN member states should not let another session of the Human Rights Council go by without adopting measures that will put serious human rights violations in the Philippines under scrutiny," Conde said. "It’s clear that Duterte’s administration will not credibly investigate abuses in the ‘drug war’ and against activists on their own."