Philippines must have standing invite for rights probes: CHR

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 24 2020 09:24 AM | Updated as of Sep 24 2020 09:35 AM

Human rights groups with relatives of children and minors killed during anti-drug war operations put up a “rage shrine” with photos of the victims and toys in a protest action at the Boy Scout Circle in Quezon City on July 19, 2019 a few days before President Duterte’s SONA. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - There must be a "standing invitation" for international bodies to look into the Philippines' war on drugs after the government's claim on upholding human rights in the country, the Commission on Human Rights said Thursday.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in his first speech before the UN General Assembly, said his administration would continue to protect human rights but at the same time called out “interest groups” that use the issue to criticize him.

CHR commissioner Karen Dumpit said government must be able to respond to issues of human rights violations as part of a functioning democracy.

"These issues must be squarely addressed by government and the denial of these violations will not be enough. It should be followed by concrete action towards addressing any part issue that interest groups have actually raised," she told ANC.

"There should be a standing invitation, let's say, for special procedures to be able to come into the country and examine the situation. There should be efforts to welcome investigations and requests coming from domestic mechanisms like the CHR when we request for information on the investigations of the deaths that occurred."

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Dumpit welcomed the creation of a task force that would investigate alleged human rights violations under the anti-narcotics campaign but said government must also be open to requests of local and international groups.

"Any engagement, we should welcome that. We should also fact-check the things [that] have been said. Any rhetoric must be backed up by concrete action, it must be also backed up by positive outcomes," she said.

"There has to be a follow through. Noninterference is something we did hear the President say... In terms of human rights you cannot say it’s a domestic issue because human rights is universal issue. We don’t exist in a vacuum. We belong to the international community and there has to be engagement there as well."

As of Sep. 8, Dumpit said the CHR has recorded 51 pending cases against police officials, of which 10 are in the Regional Trial Courts, 21 are in the Office of the Ombudsman, 11 are in the Prosecutor's Office and 9 are with the police's Internal Affairs Service.

It has so far investigated 3,249 cases of 3,813 victims, Dumpit said. Of this figure, 1,883 deaths resulted from police operations and 1,365 were vigilante killings, she added.

"Ninety percent of the cited cases were investigated motu proprio, meaning we did it in our initiative...an indication that people are actually afraid to file complaints," she said.

"There has to be a recognition of the real situation on the ground, that looking at extrajudicial killings it has happened, many deaths have occurred and that has to be examined and each and every case has to have a proper, thorough, and independent investigation."

Some 8,663 drug suspects were killed since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016, the UN Human Rights Commission said, citing government data. Human rights groups estimate the figure to be higher.