AMNESTY International on Thursday expressed concern over President Rodrigo Duterte’s “shoot to kill” orders and his public naming and shaming of drug suspects, saying these did not only violate fundamental rights, but also worsen lawlessness.
“The actual or suspected use of drugs cannot constitute grounds for violating the rights of individuals, irrespective whether the applicable drug control regime allows for imprisonment or other sanctions,” the group added.
The group said Duterte’s “shoot-to-kill” directive and frequent hints that policemen and soldiers would not be held accountable for obeying his wishes would “further exacerbate the culture of impunity among law enforcement officials for human rights violations.”
The international human rights organization, which previously urged the Duterte administration to break the cycle of rights violations, said that his “shoot to kill” directive and frequent hints that policemen and soldiers would not be held accountable for obeying his wishes “will further exacerbate the culture of impunity among law enforcement officials for human rights violations.”
“Under international human rights law, including treaties which legally bind the Philippines, the right to life… cannot be restricted even in times of crisis.”
Anti-narcotics strategies based on the use of force and militarization “increased levels of violence, intimidation and corruption usually associated with drug markets,” the group added.
Palace Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, however, defended that the President, saying he “has never ordered extrajudicial killings” and that he was “deeply concerned about what’s happening.”
But Amnesty International reminded the Duterte administration that the government should “protect people from all forms of violence, including an obligation of due diligence to prevent or to promptly, independently and impartially investigate” all killings.
The group also said perpetrators of the increasing vigilante-style executions of drug suspects must be brought to justice.
Meanwhile, students from different universities in Metro Manila held simultaneous candle-lighting protests Thursday, to demand justice for the victims of summary executions and extrajudicial killings in the country.
“We light these candles as expression of the youth’s strongest condemnation against all the killings experienced by the Filipino people. This is not just for the victims of drug-related killings, but also to denounce the persistent killings of our lumad brothers and sisters,” Kevin Castro, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) spokesperson said.
“Such atrocities have to end. President Duterte promised to have the lumad return home after years of displacement from their ancestral land. The President needs to keep his word and immediately execute orders to pull out all military forces from their lands.”
“Regarding the war-on-drugs campaign of the administration, we are urging the state to uphold due process with their drug-related operations,” the students said. Vigilante killings, they added, would not stop the country’s drug problems but uphold the worsening culture of impunity.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Thursday called on the government to concentrate its efforts on alleviating poverty and not killing suspected drug pushers and users.
Romblon Bishop Arturo Bastes, CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Mission chairman, said poverty is the root cause of drug pushing for many families to survive.
“Because of poverty, many have turned to peddling drugs in order to survive. Giving them decent jobs would stop drug trade,” he said.
He said instead of killing them, drug users and pushers should be given due process and be helped to change their lives for the better.
Based on an official Philippine National Police report, some 564 suspected drug pushers or users have been killed, 34 in police operations and 223 by vigilantes.
But the NUSP said the number of vigilante killings related to drugs had already reached 943.
“As of writing, 943 people were victims of vigilante killings related to drugs, including among them is Jefferson Bunuan, a student of Eulogio ‘Amang’ Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology,” the group said. With Sandy Araneta and Vito Barcelo
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