Philippine VP’s ‘insider account’ shows failure of deadly anti-drugs campaign – Rights group


Amnesty International has pointed out that Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo’s call on President Rodrigo Duterte’ government to review its anti-drug strategy, including the end to extra-judicial killings is a damning insider account of a murderous approach to the country’s drug problem.

Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia Joanne Mariner said, Mrs. Robredo’s assessment  is yet more proof that the Duterte administration should address the problem through drug rehabilitation programs rooted in communities – not through a brutal policy of extrajudicial killings.

“Robredo’s assessment gives credence to what Amnesty International and others have said time and again: the government’s ‘war on drugs’ is a war on the poor, marked by human rights violations and rampant impunity for the police and other high ranking officials,” continued Mariner.

Thousands of people have been killed in a wave of state-sanctioned violence since the start of President Duterte’s presidency in 2016, many of which are extrajudicial executions.

On January 06, 2020, Vice President Robredo publicly discussed her office’s findings during her 18-day stint as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs (ICAD). She said that the government has only been going after small-time drug pushers, and that treatment and rehabilitation programs are inadequate.

She called on the government to end the deadly Oplan Tokhang (‘Operation Knock and Plead’), bring proceedings against high-value targets and improve its collection and interpretation of drug-related data.

Robredo was appointed to the committee on 6 November 2019. In the weeks that she held the position, she demanded transparency and access to documents and intelligence reports. She also called on the government to address the policy of abusive drug watchlists and recommended the adoption of a health-based approach. On 24 November 2019, President Duterte fired her from her role.

In July 2019, Amnesty International published a report, “They just kill”: Ongoing extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations in the Philippines ‘war on drugs,’ which documented how police commanders who previously supervised abusive operations in Manila were later transferred to Central Luzon and have continued to oversee brutal operations there. Amnesty International is concerned that the killings reach the threshold of crimes against humanity.

“President Duterte must end Oplan Tokhang – his violent drug war policy – and initiate credible and independent investigations into past deadly operations, to obtain justice for countless victims of extrajudicial killings over the last four years,” ended Mariner. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)