By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent
Speaking before the forty-first session of the UN Human Rights Council, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet lamented the “extraordinarily high number of deaths” and “persistent reports of extra-judicial killings” as the drug war continues in the Philippines.
The UN official said they are closely following the human rights situation in the Philippines, noting the high number of deaths in the government’s anti-drug campaign as well as attacks on human rights advocates that continue without let-up.
As if in response, President Duterte indicated that his campaign against illegal drugs would be even more intensified. At the just concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Thailand, Duterte called on member nations to also re-double their efforts to combat the threats of illegal drugs, including terrorism and trans-national crimes.
In his intervention at the 34th ASEAN summit, Duterte said the illegal drug trade continues to threaten security. “Drugs corrode the very fabric of our societies,” Duterte said.
Duterte said the drug cartel has gone beyond borders. “The international drug cartels have been working and we have to fight them. We must re-double our collective efforts to counter these threats effectively and with finality,” he added.
The president said it was a “miscalculation” on his part when he promised to end the drug problem in three to six months.
At the UN, Bachelet said even the officially confirmed number of 5,425 deaths would be a matter of most serious concern for any country.
The Philippine National Police recently reported at least 6,600 drug suspects killed in police operations since Duterte assumed office on July 1, 2016. The number covers until May 31 this year.
Bachelet also welcomed the call of UN special rapporteurs for the UN Human Rights Council—composed of 47 member states—to take action in what they called a sharp deterioration of human rights in the Philippines.
In a statement last June 7, the 11 independent experts urged the council to launch an independent probe into the alleged human rights violation in the country and take action on the alleged attacks on human rights defenders and independent watchdog institutions.
The Philippines is a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
“There should also be comprehensive and transparent information from the authorities on the circumstances around the deaths and investigations related to allegations of violations. These could dispel any false allegations and help regain trust for the authorities,” Bachelet said.
The UN human rights Chief also noted that government officials have threatened human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, priests and others who have spoken out against the administration’s policies.
Bachelet noted how Duterte and other government officials accused many human rights defenders and other activists of working with syndicates, terrorists and criminals. “This creates a very real risk of violence against them and undermines rule of law, as well as the right to freedom of expression,” Bachelet said.
“UN member states stood by while thousands were killed but it’s not too late for them to act to prevent the killing of thousands more,” Laila Matar, HRW deputy director for the UN, said in a statement.
She added, “When the Council convenes in Geneva, they have an opportunity to do just that—by urgently establishing an international investigation.”
The government has repeatedly said that extra-judicial killings are not state policy and that law enforcement operations are done according to due process. It also says the operations recognizes and upholds human rights and that allegations of abuse are mere attempts to discredit the Duterte administration.