THE number of killings caused by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign worsened during the COVID-19 lockdown, New York-based Human Rights Watch said Wednesday, September 9.
The international watchdog found that 155 people were killed by the police from April to July 2020, which is 50% higher than the 103 deaths from December 2019 to March 2020.
“In total, since Duterte took office in June 2016, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has officially recognized 5,810 persons killed as of the end of July 2020,” the HRW said.
However, the organization pointed out that “PDEA’s figure of 5,810 killed only covers deaths in police anti-drug operations.”
“Thousands of other drug suspects have been killed by unidentified assailants, many of whom are believed to be plainclothes police officers or vigilantes operating in coordination with local authorities,” it added.
In a report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 8,600 people were shown to have died in Duterte’s “drug war.”
Meanwhile, other human rights groups believed that the actual number could be three times higher than that.
“The Human Rights Council should once again tackle the issue of rights abuses in the Philippines when it convenes this month,” Carlos Conde, researcher of HRW Asian Division, said.
“The government is expected to continue to deny the allegations rather than offer a constructive response. But as the government’s own statistics show, the atrocities in the drug war have worsened, even as the country suffers the worst in the region from the pandemic,” he added.
Since March 16, the Philippines have been under quarantine to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The lockdown in Metro Manila has been relaxed into a general community quarantine until September 30.
Not gospel truth
Malacañang, for its part, dismissed the report saying that HRW failed to show its methodology.
“Hindi ko naman po pupuwedeng tanggapin ang conclusion ng hindi ko nakikita iyong pag-aaral. Hindi ko po nakikita kung ano iyong hakbang na ginawa nila para magkaroon ng conclusion (I cannot just accept the conclusion without seeing the study. I have not seen what steps were taken to arrive at that conclusion),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday, September 10.
He also stressed that not everything the rights groups say is gospel truth.
“Ganyan talaga ang trabaho ng mga human rights groups. Mag-ingay para iyong mga gobyerno eh pakinggan sila. Pero hindi naman ibig sabihin na lahat ng sinasabi nila ay gospel truth (That’s how human rights groups work. They make noise so the government would listen to them. But it does not mean that everything they say is gospel truth),” Roque said.