The Philippines on Saturday rejected a call for an independent United Nations probe into Manila’s alleged human rights violations, describing it as interference in its affairs.
UN rights experts asked the UN Human Rights Council on Friday to look into the “staggering number of unlawful deaths and police killings in the context of the so-called war on drugs, as well as killings of human rights defenders.”
President Rodrigo Duterte has overseen a narcotics crackdown in which police have killed more than 5,300 suspected drug dealers and users since he was elected three years ago.
Rights groups say the actual number of dead is at least three times higher.
“The latest call by 11 special rapporteurs of the United Nations for an international probe of the Philippines not only is intellectually challenged but an outrageous interference on Philippine sovereignty,” Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Some of the biggest names in human rights performing investigative tasks for the UN issued a joint statement on Friday, calling not only for an investigation of deaths linked to the government’s war on drugs but also on attacks on human rights defenders in the Philippines.
“Let the enemies of the state and their supporters from foreign soil be forewarned that no amount of destructive narratives against this government will envelop it with the appearance of pretended truth to hoodwink the Filipino people in embracing it,” Panelo said.
“The reasons foisted by them for the aforesaid investigation have been discredited and repudiated by the very nation they pretend to care about. The Philippines is a working vibrant democracy in this part of the world,” Panelo said.
He said the Duterte administration had demonstrated strength and resilience in exercising the democratic rights outlined by the Constitution through the various institutions, with their respective allocation of power, geared toward the promotion of general welfare.
“PRRD’s war against illegal drugs is pursuant to the primary duty of the state to preserve and protect the people. Law enforcement authorities operate on strict protocols. Any deviation from it is met with the unyielding strong arm of the law with no transgressors immune from it,” the Palace official said.
He said the Judiciary sees to it that the law was being applied equally to all.
Panelo also cited the recently concluded midterm elections, saying, “The Filipino people have spoken anew, via the just concluded elections. Those who have spoken against the campaign on illegal drugs and human rights record of this President have been overwhelmingly rejected by the Filipino electorate.”
“They have been resoundingly beaten in the polls. These special rapporteurs should by this time realize that they, who believed in the untruthful advocacies of the electorally vanquished pretenders, have likewise been demolished, beyond redemption,” he added.
The 11 UN experts, who are independent and do not speak for the United Nations, include the special rapporteur on summary or extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard.
Callamard earned Duterte’s ire when she called for a stop to the drug war killings in 2016.
Duterte’s drug war is his signature policy initiative and he defends it fiercely, especially from international critics and institutions which he says do not care about the Philippines.
Critics have alleged the crackdown amounts to a war on the poor that feeds an undercurrent of impunity and lawlessness in the country.