MANILA—The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) may step in but only if Philippine authorities failed to investigate and punish alleged abuses in the country’s drug war, Vice President Leni Robredo said Friday.
Robredo, who seeks to put an end to “senseless” killings in the anti-narcotics campaign now under her watch, is set to meet with law enforcement agencies to scrutinize the thousands of deaths recorded during police operations.
“I have said this time and again that I feel that our problems should first be solved internally,” she told reporters.
“If I believe the government is not doing anything to punish whoever needs to be punished, or to put to justice whatever needs to be put to justice, then I will have no problems inviting them over.”
Robredo was referring to the UNHRC, which voted in favor of a resolution calling for an investigation into drug-related killings under President Rodrigo Duterte.
The vice president now finds herself in a position to reorient Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).
In her first ICAD briefing Friday, Robredo set the tone for an evidence-based approach to the drug problem, questioning the credibility of government figures such as the number of users.
Last February, Duterte pegged the number at 7 to 8 million even if his drug war began with the figure of 1.8 million users, based on a Dangerous Drugs Board study.
“Maski sila inamin na hindi nila alam kung saan hinugot yun,” Robredo told ABS-CBN News, referring ICAD’s response when she asked about the president’s estimate.
(Even they didn’t know where that number came from.)
The vice president said she would use her appointment to ICAD to “objectively assess” the 3-year-old drug war.
One issue that needs to be settled is the number of people killed in police operations.
The Philippine National Police earlier this year estimated it at 6,600. But the official ICAD figure was 5,779 as of October, its spokesman, Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, told ABS-CBN News on Thursday.
“What I see now are numbers but even the integrity of the numbers are also questionable in the sense that it depends on who is reporting the numbers,” Robredo said.
“They change from moment to moment and I think it’s only fair from the agencies involved that I talk to them directly about it before deciding what to do next.”