'Far from collateral damage:' Report shows 122 children killed in Duterte's drug war

President Rodrigo Duterte's violent anti-illegal drug campaign claimed the lives of at least 122 children from July 2016 to December 2019, a report by human rights groups found.

In the report "How Could They Do This To My Child?", World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC) said the killings are often deliberate and "far from being only 'collateral damage' as callously stated" by government officials.

Over the course of the investigations, the two groups found that 47 of the killings they documented were carried out as part of police operations while 75 were executed by unidentified individuals, which witnesses claimed as "some having direct links to the police." (READ: The Impunity Series)

The killings of children aged between 1 to 17 years old fall under 4 patterns: Direct targets, killed as proxies, killed as a result of mistaken, and the so-called "collateral damage." At least 97 were killed in Luzon, 14 in Visayas, and 11 in Mindanao. (LIST: Minors, college students killed in Duterte's drug war)

"This number is a minimum: with parents and relatives often too afraid of reprisals to report or testify, it is likely that the actual figures are higher," the report said.

End to the drug war

Duterte's anti-drug campaign is widely criticized for its high number of deaths. Data show more than 6,000 suspected drug personalities were killed in police operations, while human rights groups peg the number at almost 27,000 to include those killed vigilante-style. (READ: The Impunity Series)

While the 122 killings documented represent a fraction of the total estimated deaths, OMCT and CLRDC said that they are still serious due to the heightened vulnerability of children.

"States have a particular responsibility to guarantee and promote children’s rights, and a specific duty to investigate and ensure accountability for the violations of such rights," the groups said.

June 30 marks the end of Duterte's 4th year in office and yet no significant justice has been given to victims of the drug war. According to OMCT and CLRDC, it is high time to end the violent campaign.

"It is urgent to put an end to the dangerous framing of the drug problem by President Duterte’s government and move towards an approach based on international human rights and public health," they said in the report.

Accountability needed

The release of the report comes as United Nations (UN) human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is set to formally present before the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) her office's comprehensive report on the killings in the Philippines under Duterte.

The report, which was publicly released on June 4, detailed human rights violations in the Philippines that stemmed from the President's "overarching focus" on countering "real and inflated" national security threats, and that local systems have so far failed in giving justice to the victims. (DOCUMENT: U.N. Human Rights report on killings, abuses in PH)

OMCT and CLRDC call on the UN HRC to extend the currend mandate of Bachelet and to let her establish an "international on-the-ground, impartial, and independent" investigation into the Philippine situation.

Gerald Staberock, OMCT secretary general, calls on the international government to push for accountability

"It is the total lack of accountability that feeds the cycle of violence, including the war on children we are witnessing," he said. – Rappler.com

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.

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