MANILA—The human rights crisis in the country “deepened” in 2018 amid the ongoing war on illegal drugs and other factors, a New York-based watchdog said.
In its annual report released Thursday, Human Rights Watch said the anti-narcotics campaign has expanded into areas outside Metro Manila.
Records from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) revealed that some 4,948 people died during police operations from July 2016 to September 2018, while the Philippine National Police (PNP) recorded some 22,983 deaths classified as “homicides under investigation.”
“The exact number of fatalities is difficult to ascertain because the government has failed to disclose official documents about the ‘drug war,’ ” HRW said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to prolong the drug campaign, which will be “as relentless, as chilling” as it started, he said.
The report also cited “a rare triumph of accountability,” noting the conviction in November of 3 police officers found guilty of murdering Kian Loyd Delos Santos.
It also mentioned the case of retired Major General Jovito Palparan and two other Army men, who were found guilty of kidnapping and illegally detaining two University of the Philippines students in 2006.
The watchdog also praised the Philippine government for holding an argument on same-sex marriage in an overwhelmingly Catholic country.
The lower House approved on third and final reading a bill that aims to protect the rights of the LGBT community.
HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said: “In some ways this is a dark time for human rights. Yet while the autocrats and rights abusers may capture the headlines, the defenders of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law are also gaining strength.”