A volunteer for human rights group Rise Up for Life and for Rights in the central Philippine province of Cebu was shot and killed in the middle of a busy city street on Aug. 8. The victim was identified as 42-year-old Butch Rosales, who was shot to the head several times by an unidentified gunman who took off on a motorcycle driven by another man. Human rights group Karapatan condemned the killing, noting "the rising number of killings conducted with impunity in Cebu." Cristina Palabay of Karapatan said the killing of Rosales "reveals the brazenness of perpetrators" who might have been assured by the "prevailing impunity that lingers
." "Rosales was killed in the same manner that suspected drug users have been killed," said Palabay. The killing of human rights activists
like Rosales and the recent attacks on leftist political leaders are viewed by Karapatan as part of a "concerted effort" by the government against its critics. "We are confronted with a situation where the government's repression is surreptitiously permitted by similar repressive laws," Palabay. She accused the Duterte administration of making it legal to violate and bypass people's civil and political rights. "Whether it be in the war on drugs or in counterinsurgency operations, gross rights violations continue unabated," said Palabay. Since July 1, 2016, when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
came to power, the Philippine National Police said more than 4,500 people have already been killed in the government's intensified war against narcotics. Human rights groups, however, said more than 23,000 people have already died in drug-related killings since 2016. On Aug. 9 alone, three drug suspects were killed and 15 others were arrested in the province of Bulacan, north of Manila. The Philippine government, meanwhile, expressed optimism that the country will have a better relationship with the United Nations' human rights body under its new leader, former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet will replace Jordan's outspoken Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, who is stepping down at the end of the month after a four-year term. Zeid earned Duterte's ire after suggesting that the Philippine president seek a psychiatrist. He made the remark as he slammed the Philippine government's actions against U.N. special rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and Victoria Tauli Corpuz.
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The Philippine government has tagged Zeid as one of the reasons the Philippines withdrew its ratification of the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court.