MANILA, Philippines – On the day the United States Congress is set to hold a public hearing on the Duterte administration’s drug war, Malacañang urged lawmakers to consider “all sides” of the issue.
“The universality of human rights presupposes due process be observed by all and, as such, any proceedings that allege wrongdoing should provide the opportunity for all sides to be considered,” said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella.
He was speaking on Thursday, July 20 at a Palace news briefing. On this day, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, under the US Congress, is set to hold a public hearing on Philippine drug war killings.
Abella cautioned Congress from giving weight to “insinuations” and to “verify” numbers cited by resource persons during the hearing.
“Insinuations and hasty judgements have no place in due process. Numbers should be verified and information should be crosschecked so that ensuing conclusions have solid basis in fact,” said President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman.
The administration has disputed figures cited by media as the number of killings being linked to the anti-drugs campaign.
Media have used the figure of at least 7,080 deaths – a figure that includes both the killings during legitimate police operations (2,555), victims in cases of “deaths under investigation” (3,603), and victims in cases where investigation has concluded (922).
The government, however, insists only killings during legitimate police operations should be counted as the drug war’s death toll.
The Duterte administration also bases its drug war on spurious figures, such as the “4 million drug addicts” frequently cited by Duterte himself.
Malacañang, however, respects the inquiry and emphasizes its appreciation for the assistance the US has provided the country.
“We respect the views of the commission and we greatly value the support of the United States that they have given to us and continue to give our country as we address our important economic and social development objectives,” said Abella.
The US provided assistance, for instance, in the military’s operations against terrorists in Marawi.
Abella expressed hope that discussions during the hearing are done “in the context of the scope of the challenge that we face and the actions we are taking to address it.”
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, in its official website, noted that the Philippines is the largest recipient of US assistance in East Asia, assistance that partly goes to counternarcotics support.
But Duterte’s drug war and reported summary killings, said the commission, “raises questions about how the United States should balance its concerns for protecting human rights and the rule of law with its desire to maintain the bilateral alliance and continue to pursue other shared goals.”
For the public hearing, the commisison invited panelists like In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (I-DEFEND) Philippines spokesman Ellecer Carlos, Human Rights Watch Asia Division Deputy Director Phelim Kine, and Amnesty International Senior Crisis Advisor Matthew Wells. – Rappler.com