Watchdog raises a howl over drug war

The government last week released new statistics on the war on drugs, and those showed that the police killed 46 people during anti-drug operations in August.

Human Rights Watch had reported a more than 50-percent increase in drug-war deaths during the COVID-19 lockdown from April through July, Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Sunday.

The new data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s monitoring system, #RealNumbersPH, showed that the situation was getting worse, Robertson said.

Based on #RealNumbersPH statistics, during the four-month lockdown the average monthly drug war deaths totaled 39, a 50-percent increase from the four months before the lockdown, or from December 2019 to March 2020, when the average monthly death rate was 26.

The total of 46 reported killings in August was more than a 76-percent increase from the four-month average, Robertson said.

Drug war operations were typically carried out in the major cities, targeting impoverished communities facing the dual increased risk from the anti-drug campaign and the pandemic, Robertson said.

During the lockdown, these communities had been hemmed in by police and local governments, with the residents largely confined to their homes.

They become sitting ducks for anti-drug raids by the police and their agents. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in June, put the number of drug war fatalities at more than 8,000 since the campaign was started by President Rodrigo Duterte in July 2016, Robertson said.

Domestic human rights groups and the governmental National Commission on Human Rights believe the actual toll is triple that number. #RealNumbersPH, which only includes police killings and not those by gunmen linked to the police, puts the total killed at 5,856, Robertson said.

“These numbers are horrifying however you add them up. That even more are occurring under a cheerleading President Duterte as Filipinos endure lockdowns, checkpoints, and quarantines in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 is further reason for the Human Rights Council to step in and investigate the country’s human rights violations,” Robertson said.

“As long as the drug war remains official policy, the killings will continue and impunity will remain rife.”

Topics: Human Rights Watch , Phil Robertson , War on Drugs , National Commission on Human Rights , Rodrigo Duterte , Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency
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