SONA STATEMENT of Citizens’ Council for Human Rights*
In a little less than a month since his inauguration, President Rodrigo Duterte has delivered on his campaign promise to go after suspected drug pushers and users with little or no regard for human rights and due process. Units of the Philippine National Police, under the command of his close associate General Ronald (“Bato”) de la Rosa, have turned many low-income neighborhoods in the country into free fire zones. The bloody encounters taking place daily have polarized the country between those who support the president’s quick and dirty methods of dealing with drugs and crime and those who regard them as illegal, immoral, and self-defeating.
To date, more than 500 people had been killed in intensified anti-drug operations since the May 9 elections in which Duterte emerged as the victor. The pattern is worrisome: The police announce that drug pushers or users have been killed in an operation. Slain people are shown on television, invariably with firearms near their hands. The now routine police explanation: “The victims resisted arrest and fired on us, so we had to shoot them in self defense.” In some instances, the police story borders on the incredible. In a Pasay City precinct, for instance, two manacled suspects are shown on television being led into jail. Shortly thereafter, a policeman emerges to tell the press the father and son were shot dead inside the jail since they tried to reach for the police's pistols and had to be killed "in self-defense."
The Citizen’s Council for Human Rights (CCHR) strongly condemns the escalating number of killings of suspected drug pushers and drug dependents who said to have died either during so-called legitimate police operations or at the hands of unknown gunmen.
The surge in fatalities is too alarming to be ignored: from January 1 to May 9 this year (129 days), reported deaths from drug-related violence was 39. But the death count suddenly swelled after May 10. In a matter of 64 days, 251 deaths have already been reported. What makes these spate of executions most worrisome is that this was prompted by President Duterte’s pronouncements, made even before his assumption into office, that urged the police, ordinary citizens and later, the New Peoples Army to kill all those involved in the illegal drug trade, with the promise that he would shield them against any legal consequences.