UN rights chief hits Duterte amid Kian's death

MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations (UN) human rights chief criticized Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for his policy on killing suspects who resist arrest, as he noted the case of a 17-year-old student killed by the police.

"In the Philippines, I continue to be gravely concerned by the President's open support for a shoot-to-kill policy regarding suspects, as well as by the apparent absence of credible investigations into reports of thousands of extrajudicial killings, and the failure to prosecute any perpetrator," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said.

Zeid made these remarks on Monday, September 11, in a speech before the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council on human rights issues in 40 countries.

In his speech, Zeid cited "the recent killing of a schoolboy who was dragged into an alley and shot in the head by plains-clothed policeman on August 16," in apparent reference to Kian delos Santos, who was killed in a police operation in his community.

The UN official noted that Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II described Delos Santos' death as "an isolated case." 

"However, suspicion of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) has now become so widespread that the initials EJK have reportedly become a verb in some communities – as in 'he was EJKed,'" Zeid said.  

"Two days after hundreds of people turned out for the teenager's funeral, the President again told police they would not be punished for killing suspects who resist arrest. This lack of respect for the due process rights of all Filipinos is appalling," the UN human rights chief added. 

Delos Santos was killed by the Caloocan City police on August 16 because the teenager allegedly shot at the cops and prompted them to retaliate. Witnesses said Delos Santos was the victim of a frame-up, while state forensic experts said evidence showed he was executed.

Delos Santos' death triggered widespread protests against abuses in Duterte's anti-drug campaign. 

'Shocked' by threat vs Lumad schools

Aside from Delos Santos' death, Zeid took exception as well to Duterte's threat to bomb schools of indigenous children or the Lumad, which Malacañang as well as the military had clarified.

"I am also shocked by President Duterte's threat to bomb schools for indigenous children in the southern Philippines, which he said were teaching children to rebel against the government," Zeid said. 

On other issues, the UN rights chief also said:

"I urge the government to uphold the Philippines' international human rights obligations, amid deeper reflection about the values that the Philippines stands for," Zeid said. 

The UN human rights chief has earned the ire of Duterte for earlier asking the judiciary to investigate him for admitting that he had killed 3 people as Davao City mayor. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.