Human rights activists on Saturday said the allegedly summary executions of two teenagers has heighten the urgency for the United Nations to conduct an independent inquiry looking on the war on drugs of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
New York-based Human Rights Watch Deputy Director for Asia Phelim Kine said that the ‘abusive’ drug war targets children and has reached a “new level of depravity.”
“The apparent willingness of Philippine police to deliberately target children for execution marks an appalling new level of depravity in this so-called drug war,” Kine said. “These killings demonstrate that Duterte’s rejection of the rule of law has made all Filipinos potential ‘drug-war’ victims, no matter how young.”
On August 16, 17-year-old Grade 11 student Kian delos Santos was slain in an anti-drug police operation in Caloocan City. Police claimed it was a shootout, however, both witness accounts, forensic results, and CCTV footage showed that police intentionally killed delos Santos while he was in police custody.
Two days after the death of Delos Santos, 14-year-old Grade 5 student Reynaldo De Guzman and his friend, 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz, were reportedly missing after leaving their home in Cainta, Rizal to buy midnight snacks. After ten days, Arnaiz was found dead in a morgue in Caloocan City, for allegedly robbing a taxi driver and tied up in arresting officers in a shootout.
On September 5, De Guzman’s body, on the other hand, was found floating in a creek in Nueva Ecija. A pathologist report indicated that de Guzman died from at least 30 stab wounds after his assailants wrapped his head in packing tape.
HRW also stressed that the approval of a plan for the mandatory drug testing for all college students and applicants has imperiled children.
“The order permits local governments, the police, and other law enforcement agencies to “carry out any drug-related operation within the school premises” with the approval of school administrators. This will effectively allow the police to extend their abusive anti-drug operations to college and university campuses, placing students at grave risk,” the group said.
The human rights group also expressed concern on the willingness and capacity of the authorities to conduct a fair, impartial, and transparent probe into the drug war-related killings as lawmen implicated in the deaths continue to get away with murder.
“In July, police officials allowed the police officers facing homicide charges in the 2016 killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. to return to work”, it said.
“The officers were reinstated even though twin inquiries by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine Senate reached the conclusion that the officers had committed “premeditated murder” when they shot Espinosa to death in a Manila jail cell on November 5, 2016. Espinosa had surrendered to the police following public accusations by President Duterte that he was a drug trafficker. Both investigations rejected the officers’ assertion that Espinosa died in a firefight in his cell after brandishing a concealed pistol,” it added.
HRW emphazised that the efforts of the UN Human Rights Council to address the drug war is ‘crucial’, saying the council should press the Philippine government to accept an independent investigation on the alleged extrajudicial killings and to stop the government’s drug war.
“A fundamental obligation of every government is to protect the lives of its children, not to empower police and their agents to murder them,” Kine said.
“Until Duterte ends his abusive drug war and allows a UN-led international probe, child-killers among the police will continue to get away with murder,” the directot added.