Rights groups slam Cayetano’s defense of drug war before UN

Jodesz Gavilan
Rights groups slam Cayetano’s defense of drug war before UN
Human Rights Watch urges the Philippine government to 'stop depicting itself as the victim'

MANILA, Philippines – Human rights groups slammed Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano for again defending President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs before the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council. 

On Tuesday, February 27, Cayetano urged countries to scrutinize in an impartial way, adding that human rights become “a human wrong” when “politicized and weaponized.”

For Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Philippine government should “stop depicting itself as the victim.”

“[Cayetano’s claim] is totally without basis and serves only to frustrate the calls by many for accountability for the Duterte administration’s atrocities related to the so-called war on drugs,” Carlos Conde of HRW’s Asia Division said in a statement on Wednesday, February 28. 

“The truth is, the Philippine government needs to answer for the more than 12,000 lives lost without due process in this brutal campaign across the country,” he added.

Data from the government show that at least 3,987 individuals have been killed in anti-drug operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The number of those killed vigilante-style is still highly contested, with human rights groups estimating the figure could be more than 12,000.

The In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND), meanwhile, said Cayetano’s continuous defense of the drug war leads to more evidence that it is “officially sanctioned by the state.”

“These pronouncements are crucial evidence for possible future litigation against him and the President: a global indictment that we hope would come sooner than later in order to force an end to this failed war on drugs – for that would certainly save lives,” Rosemarie Trajano of iDEFEND said in a statement. 

The group denounced Duterte’s drug war as a “brutal campaign of terror and annihilation of our democratic institutions and processes.”

“The war on drugs does not save the lives of Filipinos; it ushers in Duterte’s authoritarian ambitions over a terrorized population,” Trajano said. – Rappler.com 

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.