Duterte will face justice at the hands of the International community
Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of Asia Division, Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been keeping a close watch on the Philippine’s war on drug launched by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte since July 2016. In March, 2017, the commission released a report titled “License to Kill”: Philippines Police Killings in Duterte’s “War on Drugs” which details the atrocious killings of thousands in the name of the war. “The drug war in the Philippines is a human rights disaster,” said Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of HRW’s Asia Division, in an email interview with Tempo’s Abdul Manan, last Saturday.
How does HRW see the drug war in the Philippines that is still continuing until today?
The drug war in the Philippines is a human rights disaster that has resulted in the loss of more than 25,000 lives. Most often, those gunned down by police in bogus ‘buy-bust’ operations, or by unknown vigilantes operating in tandem with the authorities, are the poorest of the poor, slum dwellers and ‘little fish’ of the drug trade. President Duterte is pursuing political popularity with this drug war
What is the biggest problem with this war? Its legality or how it is run?
The biggest problem is the slaughter of people, the extra-judicial killings that leave bodies every morning on the streets of the Philippine’s poorest slums. The police claim their ‘buy-bust’ operations are legal, but they are fabricating accounts and placing guns next to those gunned down, just like in the Hollywood movies.
The fact that over 20,000 people have been killed by vigilantes apparently working in coordination with the authorities, and no one is being held accountable for those killings, shows just how lawless Duterte’s war on drugs really is. This war has been repeatedly condemned by the UN Human Rights Council, and its Special Rapporteurs, showing very clearly that there is no international justification for this bloodbath.
The Philippines thinks this war is needed to tackle the acute drug problems...
The problem of drug addiction should be dealt with participatory, community-based programs. There is international law and best practice on how to deal with drug issues, but Duterte’s drug war is so far from all of that.
With the Philippines’ exit from the international criminal court (ICC), can the council still probe into the drug war?
Everything that happened in the Philippines until the day that its departure from the ICC was effective is still covered by the ICC. Duterte may think that he could escape accountability by pulling the Philippines out of the ICC but he is seriously mistaken because everything from the time he took power until March 2017 is covered and is now actively being investigated by the ICC prosecutor. We expect that ultimately the ICC will find there is a case for Duterte and his minions to answer at the court and he will face justice at the hands of the international community.
Can the families of the victims still get international support in their cases?
There is plenty of international support for justice in the Philippines.
Can the Philippines itself be independent in investigating the cases?
The Philippines’ investigations of drug war killings have been a joke. There has been only one case—where three police killed teenager Kian de los Santos—where the court operated effectively and convicted those police of murder. The only reason that happened was investigators got the CCTV tape of the killing before the police could get there and destroy the evidence.