HRW: Duterte admin's probe into media killings 'dubious'
MANILA, Philippines – While a probe on unsolved killings of Filipino journalists is "sorely needed", international watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said such an investigation is "dubious" in the context of the Duterte administration's ongoing war on drugs.
"Journalists have reason to be skeptical about the integrity of a Duterte government inquiry," HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said in a statement on Friday, October 14.
"Not just because Duterte has himself justified the 'assassination' of journalists he deems 'corrupt'. But also because the government has been cheerleading killings without consequence in its so-called 'war on drugs', which has resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Filipinos since July 1."
On Tuesday, October 11, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an administrative order creating the "Presidential Task Force on Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of the Members of the Media."
The task force's duty is to ensure "a safe environment for media workers."
A probe into media killings, according to Kine, is needed because those who kill journalists in the Philippines "almost always elude justice."
For instance, Kine said while 30 journalists were killed during former president Benigno Aquino III's term, police records showed only one successful prosecution of a journalist's killer from 2010 to 2016.
"Worse, not a single mastermind of these killings has been prosecuted and convicted," he added.
Despite Duterte's creation of the task force that will probe media killings, Kine still criticized the current administration for "consistently" refusing to investigate the circumstances of thousands of deaths linked to the ongoing war on drugs.
From July 1 till the 1st week of October, the Duterte administration's campaign against drugs has already seen at least 3,867 personalities killed both from legitimate police operations and extrajudicial or vigilante-style killings.
"Instead, Duterte has praised the killings as proof of the 'success' of the anti-drug campaign and urged police to 'seize the momentum'," Kine noted.
In addition, Kine questioned the task force's "commitment to a thorough and impartial probe," given that it will be chaired by the justice secretary.
"The taskforce chairman is Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who has demonstrated a reprehensible contempt for rule of law by defending the killings linked to Duterte's 'war on drugs'," Kine said.
He added: "Aguirre has refused to respond to repeated calls for the justice department to launch an urgent and impartial investigation into those deaths and justified the mounting death toll by stating, 'Desperate times call for desperate measures. So this is what the president is doing and we support it'."
"Unless official attitudes shift 180 degrees," Kine said there is "no reason to believe" the Duterte administration will provide justice to victims of extrajudicial killings "anytime soon." – Rappler.com