HRW: Human rights crisis under Duterte at its ‘worst’ since Marcos

The current human rights situation in the Philippines is at its “worst” since the dictatorship of late President Ferdinand Marcos, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has claimed.

In its World Report 2018, HRW said that President Rodrigo Duterte has “plunged” the country into “its worst human rights crisis,” citing, in particular, the deaths of thousands of “mostly poor Filipinos” linked to his controversial campaign against illegal drugs.

The annual report reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries.

According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), 3,906 suspected drug personalities have been killed during legitimate police operations from July 1, 2016 to September 26, 2017.

But HRW claimed that “unidentified gunmen have killed thousands more, bringing the total death toll to more than 12,000,” according to “credible media reports.”

“President Rodrigo Duterte has plunged the Philippines into its worst human rights crisis since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s and 1980s,” HRW said in its report released Thursday, January 18.

The group added, “His ‘war on drugs,’ launched after he took office in June 2016, has claimed an estimated 12,000 lives of primarily poor urban dwellers, including children.”

HRW also stated that Duterte engaged in “harassment and intimidation of individuals and agencies tasked with accountability,” particularly those who are critical of policies like Senator Leila De Lima and United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard.

De Lima has been in detention since February last year due to what HRW tagged as “politically motivated” drug charges. Callamard, on the hand, has been repeatedly lambasted in expletives by the president in his past speeches.

In its report, the group further mentioned the efforts of pro-Duterte lawmakers to cut the funds of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) “as apparent retaliation for its efforts to probe the anti-drug campaign.”

“In the face of mounting international criticism, the Duterte government has adopted a tactic of denying as ‘alternative facts’ well-substantiated reports by human rights and media organizations of high death tolls linked to the ‘drug war,’” HRW added.

The group also said that the president has “publicly vilified media outlets whose reporters have exposed police culpability in extrajudicial killings.”

HRW noted that Duterte previously threatened to block the renewal of the broadcasting franchise of ABS-CBN network.

“In July, Duterte publicly threatened the Philippine Daily Inquirer with tax evasion charges and falsely accused the media platform Rappler of being U.S.-owned in an apparent effort to undermine its credibility,” it added.

However, Malacañang simply dismissed HRW’s claims.

“That’s fictional,” Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters.

The report also noted the “fast-growing HIV epidemic” in the country, as well as the situation in Marawi City, Mindanao that has “resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 combatants and civilians and the displacement of 400,000 residents.”

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