Amnesty International has called for the United Nations to investigate the deaths of thousands of mostly poor Filipinos.
Three years after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte unleashed his drugs crackdown, the official death toll is around 6,600 killed in police anti-drug operations, which the authorities normally describe as “shootouts”. But Amnesty said more than 20,000 others have been killed by unknown perpetrators.
Filipino campaigners say tens of thousands are being killed as police terrorise poor communities, using arbitrary drug “watch lists” to identify suspected addicts or dealers, and executing many of them under the guise of sting operations.
Amnesty accused Duterte of conducting a “large-scale murdering enterprise” and said he should be investigated by the United Nations for crimes against humanity. Apart from the prosecution of three police officers for the murder of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos, no officers have faced prosecution.
The killing has created a “climate of total impunity in the country, in which police and others are free to kill without consequence”, the NGO reported.
Now Bulacan province, north of Manila, is the focal point for the murders after the transfer to the region of police commanders who oversaw killings in the capital, the report said.
Three-year-old Myca Ulpina, the youngest known victims of Duterte’s crackdown, was buried yesterday (Tuesday).
The police called her death “collateral damage”.
The government says those killed were armed and resisted arrest, including the toddler’s father, Renato, whom they said used his daughter as a human shield in a June 29 operation in Rizal province near Manila.
“I can’t count how many masses I’ve held for victims of the war on drugs, but one thing I’ve discovered is none of them fought back,” priest Noel Gatchailan said at the mass.
The slaughter has made the Philippines the fourth most dangerous place in the world for civilian-targeted violence, behind Yemen.
The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project said India was the most dangerous country, with 1,385 violent events that targeting civilians, second was Syria with 1,160 and then came Yemen with 500. The Philippines had 345 deaths.
The report said there had been 490 deaths reported since January with Central Luzon and Calabarzon accounting for 23 per cent and 22 per cent of killings, respectively. The National Capital Region, including Manila, reported just 10 per cent of the fatalities.
A UN vote is expected this week on an Icelandic-sponsored resolution calling for a probe. Duterte’s office has vowed to block the move and said it would prevent investigators from entering the Philippines.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, asked about the “extraordinarily high number of deaths – and persistent reports of extrajudicial killings – in the context of campaigns against drug use”.
Duterte has previously said he would arrest investigators from the International Criminal Court, which has threatened to probe the killings. The populist president, a former lawyer, withdrew the Philippines from the court in protest.
Poor Filipinos continue to face execution. Picture credit: YouTube