Watchdog to Kerry: Tell Duterte to probe killings

Paterno Esmaquel II
Human Rights Watch says US Secretary of State John Kerry should air his concern about Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war against illegal drugs

COUNTERPARTS TALKING. US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) talks with Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr (right) during an ASEAN-US meeting on the sidelines of the annual ASEAN ministerial meeting in Vientiane, Laos, on July 25, 2016. Photo by Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The watchdog group Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, July 26, to tell Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate the recent killings of suspected drug dealers in the Philippines. 

Kerry is set to arrive in the Philippines on Tuesday for a two-day trip that includes a meeting with Duterte.

In a statement, HRW Asia deputy director Phelim Kine said Kerry should air his concern about Duterte’s war against illegal drugs.

“Kerry should make clear to President Duterte that the Philippines’ government and security forces must respect universal rights and freedoms and constitutional guarantees of due legal process in enforcing the country’s laws, including those governing illegal drugs,” Kine said.

The HRW official added: “Kerry should also encourage President Duterte to launch an immediate probe into the sharp increase in killings by police of suspected drug dealers and drug users and to curb official rhetoric which suggests an implicit, if not explicit, official support for extrajudicial killings as an approach to crime control.” 

Duterte defends killings

This comes as Philippine police report killing more than 200 drug suspects, or an average of 11 per day, since Duterte assumed office. They insist they have only killed people in self-defense.

Media tallies put the death toll far higher, taking into account the many bullet-riddled or stabbed corpses found on streets across the nation.

ABS-CBN News has recorded 544 deaths since election day.

Catholic leaders, such as Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, have voiced concern over these killings.

During his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), however, Duterte defended the killings of suspected drug pushers who resist arrest.

Duterte earlier said he will protect policemen who kill suspected drug pushers in legitimate police operations. The President, on the other hand, previously said there is “no honor” in extrajudicial kilings.

Duterte said in his SONA on Monday, July 25: “Kayo namang hindi pa bungog diyan, hindi pa pumasok ‘yang mga droga, e kung ayaw ninyong mamatay, ayaw ninyong masaktan, huwag kayong umasa diyan sa mga pari, pati human rights. Hindi nakakapigil ‘yan ng kamatayan.

(As for you who aren’t yet crazy, who haven’t gotten involved in drugs, if you don’t want to die, if you don’t want to get hurt, do not count on those priests, even those in human rights. They cannot stop death.) – with reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.