MANILA - Killings related to illegal drugs, repression of dissent, and restrictions on press freedom intensified in 2022, even after the end of the Duterte administration, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said.
In its Philippines Annual Report 2022-2023, Amnesty International said unlawful killings related to the "war on drugs" continued, even after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumed office in June.
"The number of killings committed in the context of the “war on drugs” rose after the new administration took office. According to the university-based research group Dahas, 324 drug-related killings by the police and other unknown assailants were recorded during 2022, 175 of which took place after July," the group said in its report.
Amnesty International also noted the ongoing investigation on 30 policemen involved in the "Bloody Sunday" killings in 2021, which led to the death of labor leader Manny Asuncion and fisherfolk leaders Chai Lemita-Evangelista and Ariel Evangelista.
Despite these developments, Amnesty International noted the government has yet to investigate majority of the drug-related killings.
"However, the vast majority of killings related to the “war on drugs” remained uninvestigated," the group said.
Amnesty International likewise noted the Philippine government's non-cooperation with the investigation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber.
"In June, the ICC Prosecutor filed an application with the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to resume investigations into crimes against humanity, including in the context of the “war on drugs”. The Prosecutor stated that investigations by national authorities were inadequate and that the suspension of ICC investigations in late 2021 at the request of the Philippine government was therefore unwarranted. The government maintained its position of non-cooperation with the ICC," it added.
Aside from the drug-related killings, Amnesty International also took note of the death of activists activists Ericson Acosta and Joseph Jimenez, journalist Percival "Percy Lapid" Mabasa, Silvestre Fortades and Rose Maria Galias, and the arrest of "red-tagged" doctor Natividad Castro.
"The continued linking of organizations and individuals to communist groups by the authorities and their supporters, known as “red-tagging”, led to further killings, arbitrary detentions and harassment of human rights defenders, political activists and others," Amnesty International said, noting the widespread "red-tagging" of activists in the country.
Among the incidents mentioned in the report were the arrest of Castro in February, Adora Faye de Vera in August, and the "red-tagging" of Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar, among others.
Aside from the killing of Percy Lapid, Amnesty International also noted the repression of freedom of expression when the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) blocked access to several websites, including that of Bulatlat.
"Physical attacks and judicial harassment of journalists intensified and independent news sites were blocked," it said.
It also mentioned the upholding of the conviction of the cyberlibel case against Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, and the arrest of Walden Bello.
"Unlawful killings under the “war on drugs” continued and impunity for thousands of past killings remained entrenched. Repression of dissent intensified and freedom of expression was further restricted as human rights defenders, political activists, journalists and others were subjected to unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest and detention. Authorities blocked the websites and ordered the closure of independent media," Amnesty International also said in the overview of its report.
FROM THE ARCHIVES