How has the war on drugs affected Filipino children?

Don Tagala, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 28 2020 02:35 AM

New York-based Human Rights Watch has published a report detailing the impact of President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war on Filipino children, whose parents or guardians were killed in the Philippine government's anti-narcotic operations. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - New York-based Human Rights Watch has published a report detailing the impact of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs on Filipino children, whose parents or guardians were killed in the Philippine government's anti-narcotic operations.

The rights monitor released on Tuesday the 48-page report titled "'Our Happy Family Is Gone’: Impact of the ‘War on Drugs’ on Children in the Philippines" which shows the psychological and economic trauma experienced by affected children.

One of the anti-narcotics operations Human Rights Watch specified was the “tokhang” (knock-and-plead), in which police knock on homes of suspected drug traffickers or drug users to persuade them to surrender and stop their illegal activities – but at times end up in a gunfight or shooting of the suspect.

"We interviewed nearly 50 people, parents, guardians, advocates, government officials," said Carlos Conde, an HRW researcher.

"The purpose of this report is to try to look into the impact of the drug war not just on the victims but also on the families, particularly children."

Conde said the death of the supposed pushers or addicts would drive the family deeper into poverty, forcing children to work to make a living. 

These children also experience bullying as a result of the stigma of their parents or guardians being labeled as drug traffickers or drug users, he said.

"The government has written off these children and their families, the government does not have a single specific program to help these children," Conde said.

According to HRW deputy director Phil Robertson, the issue of supporting children whose parents or guardians were slain in the Philippine drug war hasn't been spoken of by Malacañang.

"These issues of providing support to families and children of those killed in the drug war [have] never come up in the Philippines Cabinet, so quite clearly the killings get the attention of the people but repairing the damage and having accountability, these are the things that are no spoken of in Malacañang Palace," Robertson said.

HRW said the report could make its way to US Congress and may possibly impact the push for lawmakers to cut military aid to the Philippines and possibly cancel the nearly $2 billion arms deal between the two countries.

"We oppose that deal. We felt that in fact, going forward with that deal would again give a stamp of approval to the Philippine Government in a way that is not appropriate, given its core human rights records," Robertson said.

A new report by the United Nations on supposed humans rights violations in the Philippines is also expected to be released in the coming week.

"This will be the first authoritative UN report mandated by a political body made out of member states by the UN, and so, this will be the strongest, I think, expression of concern internationally that we would had," said Laila Matar, deputy director for United Nations at Human Rights Watch's office in Geneva.

Malacañang has yet to comment on the report.

In July 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution seeking a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, including the alleged extrajudicial killings in the government's drug war. 

The rights body voted to adopt the resolution filed by Iceland, with 18 countries voting yes and 14 countries voting no.