By Azer N. Parrocha
The government of the Philippines on Monday presented the ‘real’ state of human rights in the country and also defended Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s war on illegal drugs before the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, a staunch ally of Pres. Duterte, led the 16-member Philippine delegation attending the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and enumerated five “true facts” to dispel “alternative facts” reported by local and foreign media. The proceeding was streamed live on his personal Facebook account.
The first fact Cayetano presented was that “killings in the Philippines in the previous administrations varied from a low of 11,000 to a high of 16,000 per year” and that there was “no apples to apples comparison between the figures of the past and present administration.”
During the recent government-initiated #RealNumbersPH forum, data from several agencies including the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Department of Health (DOH) among others showed that out of the 9,432 homicide cases recorded in the Duterte administration from July 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 only 1,847 or 19.6 percent were linked to the war on drugs.
The agencies also denied that the 7,000 extrajudicial killings (EJKs) reported by local media and human rights groups were all related to the drug war.
“Why wasn’t this reported? Why is there no apples to apples comparison between the figures of past and present administrations? Because some of the critics of the Duterte Administration, including our very own Commission on Human Rights (CHR), a senator and some local media changed the definition of EJK therefore deceiving the public and foreign media into believing that there is a sudden wave of state-sponsored EJKsin the Philippines,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano lamented that in the previous administration under Pres. Benigno Aquino III, EJKs were defined as the killing of the members or advocates of cause-oriented organizations like labor, environment or media activists which resulted in “very low” number of “supposed EJKs” in the past administration.
He said that for the current administration “a different definition is being used.”
“EJK now refers to any death outside of those caused by natural causes, accidents or those ordered by the courts. Make no mistake, any death or killing is one too much. However, there is a deliberate attempt to include all homicides as EJKs or killings related to the campaign against criminality and illegal drugs, and that these are state-sponsored, which is simply not true,” he added.
The second fact Cayetano presented was that the fact that 1.266 million illegal drug pushers and users have surrendered was barely included in reports.
“They are being rehabilitated and given a second chance. Again, in reports on the Philippines’ anti-illegal drug campaign, this is never emphasized. In fact, it is rarely included,” the senator said.
Meanwhile, the third fact he presented was how the drug operations conducted during the previous administration’s six year period compared to the current administration’s 10-month period.
“In the six-year period prior to the Duterte administration, 93,197 drug operations were conducted. Now, barely 10 months into the Duterte administration, a total of 53,503 anti-illegal drug operations have been conducted,” Cayetano said.
In his fourth and fifth facts, Cayetano also stressed how 64,917 drug personalities have been arrested and not killed and how out of 9,432 total homicide cases, only 2,692 deaths resulted from presumed legitimate law enforcement operations.
The senator explained that there were more deaths due to police operations because “law enforcers are now conducting operations every day and the ratio of those who surrender and those who violently resist is consistent.”
“Therefore, more operations lead to more arrest, more surrenderees and, unfortunately, more who resist violently thus resulting in more deaths. Why presumed legitimate law enforcement operations? Because any death resulting from law enforcement operations is presumed legitimate under the law, although it is automatically subject of investigation,” Cayetano said.
Mutual support and understanding
Cayetano, meanwhile, vowed continued cooperation with the UPR working group and the UN human rights system.
He, however, took a stab at the UN’s system of sending special rapporteurs noting that although it has oftentimes been effective, it can “create more harm than good, especially when human rights is politicized.”
The senator’s remark came after UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard recently attended a forum in the University of the Philippines where she deemed any war on drugs as ineffective.
He, however, said that the government will still extend invitations to the Special Rapporteurs at the most appropriate time, “provided they prove their openness, independence, and willingness to engage the Philippine government in a constructive dialogue.”
In closing, Cayetano urged for “understanding where the Philippines is coming from” noting that it is essential to our discussions in improving the human rights situation in the country.
He assured that all types of challenges were being addressed by the government and ASEAN partners including terrorism. He also called on to media and human rights groups to be “factual, fair and just.” (PNA)