Time to launch 'international mechanisms' on PH drug war: watchdog

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2020 10:14 AM | Updated as of Sep 16 2020 10:18 AM

Human rights groups with relatives of children and minors killed during anti-drug war operations put up a “rage shrine” with photos of the victims and toys in a protest action at the Boy Scout Circle in Quezon City on July 19, 2019 a few days before President Duterte’s SONA. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - It is time to launch international mechanisms into human rights violations in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday as the UN Human Rights Commission began its 45th session.

The UNHRC began Monday its 45th session and is expected to tackle human rights violations in the Philippines. Its chief Michelle Bachelet in June released a report that found there was "widespread and systematic killing of thousands of alleged drug suspects" and rights defenders in the Philippines.

HRW deputy director Laila Matar said the Philippine government's review panel has yet to release an update on its findings.

"When you have thousands upon thousands killed with impunity, it is too late to talk about domestic accountability. It is time for international mechanisms to kick in," she told ANC.

"What I think is very important is we don’t have time to wait...This is happening as we speak, it’s happening daily...The international community cannot afford to wait, survivors and victims and their families need justice now and they need to know that the international community is watching."

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The Philippines' review panel on the drug war is the "latest trick in the bag of the government to try to avoid further scrutiny" at the UN Human Rights Council, according to Matar.

"If we look at the structure of the panel itself, it lacks credibility clearly because those who will conduct the reviews are those agencies and individuals that are themselves implicated in the killings," she said.

"The Duterte administration has proven itself as masters of deception. We've seen the lengths to which they’ve gone before both to deceive the international community, spread misinformation and lies and the extent of pressure on diplomats on the world over to block scrutiny."

If there was a shift in Philippine government's stand on the war on drugs, it should have stopped the killings as it established a review panel, Matar said.

"You cannot do both at the same time and expect your domestic panel to be taken seriously. It’s too much, too late and we have very little faith in it," she said.

It is "not enough" for the international community to condemn and be aware of the issues in the Philippines, she added.

"We've been consistently calling on states…to move from condemnation and awareness to true and real action to the extent they care about the Philippines, to truly invest in the Philippines now to get it back on track where it can be a respected member of the international community," Matar said.

More than 60 organizations around the world have called on the UN to establish an independent, international investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines, she added.

Bachelet is expected to give another update on human rights violations in the Philippines, Matar said.

"It paints a very dark picture," she said.

Some 8,663 were killed since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016, the UNHRC said in its report, citing government data. Human rights groups estimate the figure to be higher.