2022 Philippine Elections

Fixing human rights disaster under Duterte should be priority for next president – HRW

Jodesz Gavilan
Fixing human rights disaster under Duterte should be priority for next president – HRW

JUSTICE. Families of drug war victims light candles for their loved ones.

Rob Reyes/Rappler

Human Rights Watch says presidential aspirants should 'announce their willingness to fully cooperate with the ICC investigation'

MANILA, Philippines – Widespread abuses and bloodshed in the Philippines highlight the need for a strong human rights commitment from the next administration, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday, January 13.

HRW Asia director Brad Adams said the presidential aspirants should prioritize reversing policies that led to an “unmitigated human rights disasters” since President Rodrigo Duterte came into power in 2016.

“The next administration should stop the killings, ensure accountability, and support laws that protect basic rights,” he said.

This is very important as the situation in the Philippines continues to deteriorate, with documented cases of human rights abuses in 2021, according to HRW’s new World Report published on Thursday.

The report highlighted Duterte’s violent war on drugs, which has led to 6,221 deaths in police operations as of November 30, 2021. Human rights groups estimated the number to reach 30,000 to include those killed vigilante-style.

The International Criminal Court in September 2021 approved the request for a formal investigation into the drug war killings and deaths in Davao City from 2011 to 2016. (READ: Killing as state policy: 10 things the ICC says about Duterte’s drug war)

The Duterte government, however, requested a deferral. ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, temporarily pausing its probe as a matter of procedure, asked the government to prove it is genuinely investigating the thousands of killings.

HRW said that all presidential aspirants “should also announce their willingness to fully cooperate with the ICC investigation” as Duterte remains firm in his stance not to cooperate, even as the Supreme Court in July 2021 said that the Philippines is still obliged to cooperate in proceedings.

Dire situation

Aside from the drug war, the HRW report also highlighted the continued attacks against journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders, including the persistent red-tagging as perpetrated by state agents, among others.

It also pointed out the dangers of the anti-terror law, which the SC recently upheld most of its provisions. The contested law, HRW recorded, has “been used by the government against activists, indigenous peoples, unionists,
as well as alleged communist insurgents.”

Red-tagging has become “endemic to the government’s counter-insurgency campaign.”

“Many of those red-tagged are subsequently killed, journalists covering the insurgency or investigating abuses and corruption also face harassment and violence,” HRW said in the report.

As of August 2021, rights group Karapatan had documented 421 incidents of killings since July 2016, while there were also 504 recorded cases of frustrated killings. (READ: Prelude to 2022? Thousands of grassroots organizers arrested, hundreds killed) – 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.