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Human Rights Watch reports surge in Philippine killings

War on drugs was country's 'gravest human rights concern' in 2019, annual report says

ucanews reporter, Manila

ucanews reporter, Manila

Updated: January 15, 2020 09:49 AM GMT
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Human Rights Watch reports surge in Philippine killings

In this file 2017 photo a woman grieves next to the body of her son, an alleged drug user, shot dead during the Philippines’ deadly drug war. (Photo by Noel Celis/AFP)  


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The Philippines' "war on drugs" was the country's "gravest human rights concern" in 2019, according to Human Rights Watch.

In its World Report 2020 released on Jan. 15, the international human rights group also noted that security forces were also implicated in many deadly attacks on activists.

"President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s anti-drug campaign remains as brutal as when it started, with drug suspects being killed regularly across the country," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"Four years into the 'drug war,' the need for international mechanisms to provide accountability is as great as ever."

Last July, the Philippine National Police reported that its officers had killed more than 5,500 people during drug raids.

Local human rights groups and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, however, said the number could be more than 27,000.

The Human Rights Watch report noted that except for three police officers involved in a highly publicized killing in August 2017, no one has been convicted for any drug-war killings.

Duterte has continued to defend the drug war and promised to protect law enforcement officers who killed drug suspects in these raids.

In December 2019, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency reported that it had killed 5,552 people during drug raids from July 1, 2016, to Nov. 30, 2019.

In its report, Human Rights Watch also noted an upsurge in attacks against left-wing activists, including peasant leaders, environmentalists, tribal leaders, and religious figures.

Violence was particularly high on the island of Negros in the central Philippines, where security forces allegedly killed peasant leaders, environmental activists, and religious leaders.

The report noted that activist groups faced police raids that resulted in arbitrary arrests and detention. These groups alleged that police "planted" weapons and other “evidence" to justify the raids.

The government and military frequently labeled these groups and individuals as communist rebels or sympathizers, a practice commonly known as "red tagging."

Human Rights Watch said the Duterte administration has done little to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the attacks.

"There are sadly no signs that President Duterte is going to end drug-war killings or act to stop attacks on activists," Robertson said.

In the 652-page report, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries.

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