MANILA - The Commission on Human Rights on Monday urged the government to act on the "appalling number" of extrajudicial deaths instead of denying the culture of impunity.
The constitutionally-mandated commission said the government should "exhaust all the necessary measures to strengthen the criminal justice system and hold to account the perpetrators of these violations."
"Now that thousands of deaths related to the ongoing campaign against illegal drugs have been documented and yet no one has been prosecuted, it clearly speaks of how the Philippine government failed to fulfill its obligation to conduct investigations, prosecute, and convict those responsible for violating human rights," the CHR said in a statement.
"This accurately shows that impunity persists in our society. The government must create an environment conducive to the protection of human rights, and tolerance of impunity is a violation in itself," it added.
The agency noted the 2017 Global Impunity Index, where the Philippines has the highest level of impunity in 69 countries. The study, it said, followed the United Nations' definition of impunity as "the impossibility, de jure or de facto, of bringing the perpetrators of violations to account whether in criminal, civil, administrative or disciplinary proceedings since they are not subject to any inquiry that might lead to their being accused, arrested, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced to appropriate penalties, and to making reparations to their victims."
Latest police estimates placed the number of drug suspects slain in legitimate anti-drug operations at around 3,800, whereas human rights groups have placed the deaths at over 10,000.
The government has denied the allegation by the advocates, with the Philippine National Police saying there had been no extra-judicial killings since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in July last year.
The agency said it met with the leaders of the Philippine National Police in August to enjoin them in establishing a joint task force that will audit and create an inventory of extrajudicial killings, but the police organization did not share their spot reports.
"Although it became an opportunity for discussion between the two agencies to address the rising death toll related to the campaign against illegal drugs, the PNP's denial to share police spot reports makes the investigation more arduous for the Commission and other human rights groups," it said in the statement.
"The CHR, nevertheless, continues to look forward to other opportunities for constructive engagement with the PNP in the future," it added.
Addressing the government, which has been on the anti-narcotics campaign under Duterte's directive, the CHR said waging a war against illegal drugs and terrorism must be coupled with a "strong drive to hold perpetrators to account."
"Peace, order, and security of the country can only be obtained if wheels of justice are reinforced to prosecute individuals/ organizations responsible for these crimes. Only by bringing the perpetrators to court can affirm the rule of law and restore trust in the institutions of society," the agency said.
The CHR said that despite the laws enacted to protect human rights, impunity hampers the country's development and threatens people's democracy.
"Free movement of perpetrators in the public, especially those who remain in their powerful positions and have the ability to protect themselves from prosecution, breeds not only loss of trust in justice, but also an ongoing threat and fear-mongering among the public," their statement read.
The CHR said it welcomes the mandamus filed by human rights lawyers asking it to investigate extrajudicial killings and arbitrary executions by performing its duty to conduct motu proprio investigations on "all forms of human rights violations."