The Commission on Human Rights on Monday, March 8, said that the Philippine government is failing to address widespread killings in the country despite commitments made to uphold human rights.
In a statement, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said that the Commission is "yet to see a concrete response to our repeated plea for a tangible reduction of violence on the ground."
This comes after 9 activists were killed by the police and military on Sunday, March 7. At least 6 were also arrested as part of the deadly crackdown in the Calabarzon region.
The Duterte government has repeatedly hyped its commitment to address widespread impunity in the country. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, on February 24, told the United Nations Human Rights Council that "an integral part of the Philippine commitment to human rights is the continuous strengthening of its accountability mechanisms."
The Commission said the number of deaths is "concerning," given the pattern of red-tagging and escalating attacks against activists in the country.
"All necessary actions must be done to demonstrate our genuine regard for life and to truly address the impunity and stop further killings," De Guia said.
The CHR already deployed a team to investigate, but it also called on the government to also probe the incidents, "given the brutal nature of the deaths and allegations of irregularities in the said law enforcement."
Guevarra on Monday said he will include the Calabarzon killings in the Department of Justice's task force probe into political killings.
Data from rights group Karapatan shows that at least 318 individuals have been killed "in the course of the Philippine government’s implementation of its counterinsurgency program."
The recent incident happened a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered state forces to "kill" and "finish off" communist rebels in encounters.
This is not the first time Duterte has ordered his men to kill. From suspected drug personalities to activists, the President has often used harsh and violent rhetoric in his speeches.
In a July 2020 report, CHR said that Duterte "created a dangerous fiction that it is legitimate to hunt down and commit atrocities against [them] because they are enemies of the State."
The Commission reiterated this on Monday, saying that the government cannot be the first one to violate human rights.
"Words matter and such words can embolden some to act with abuse and impunity," De Guia said.
The number of slain activists is on top of the suspected drug personalities killed in Duterte's anti-illegal drug operations which have accounted for at least 6,039 victims as of January 31.
Human rights groups, meanwhile, estimate a higher 27,000 to 30,000 victims, including those killed by alleged vigilantes. (READ: UN rights chief: Continued killings by police in PH still ‘a serious concern’) – Rappler.com
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.