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CHR: Duterte drug war’s culture of impunity mostly affected marginalized sectors

The Duterte administration executed the anti-drug war with a culture of impunity that mostly affected the marginalized sectors, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said.

The CHR made the statement in its 2022 report on Investigated Killings In Relation to the Anti-Illegal Drug Campaign, which revealed that of 798 incidents which had links to drug trade, 793 resulted in death of at least one victim and that the total number of victims reached 1,014.

Of this number, 920 were killed while only 87 survived. The status of the remaining seven victims is unknown.

"In its investigation and documentation, the Commission observed the impunity within which these killings occur and operate. Perpetrators are seldom brought to justice as the climate of fear paralyze accountability mechanisms and processes," the CHR said.

"In several instances, the Commission finds that families and witnesses decline to participate in any investigation in fear for their own safety and security. Some individuals have refused to be named as sources of information, scared to be identified and later be targeted by the perpetrators," the CHR added.

For its report, the CHR had a sample size of 882 case dockets with concluded investigations analyzed to minimize errors and to provide more room for in-depth examination.

Shot in the head

While the police frequently argued that drug suspects resist arrest, the CHR report said only 31 incidents analyzed showed that police operatives sustained injuries, largely owing to either wearing bulletproof vests or being hit in the extremities.

Moreover, CHR noted the use of excessive and disproportionate force in 329 incidents where a lone victim was killed in drug operations participated by a minimum of three well-trained and highly skilled police operatives, armed with highly reliable weapons.

"Not only was there a question on sufficient provocation by the victims, but witness accounts in 133 incidents state discrepancies and inconsistencies in the official police narratives," the CHR pointed out.

"Out of the 235 victims with records on sustained gunshot wounds, 201 or 86% were shot in the head and/or torso—further manifesting the intent to kill by police operatives. Verily, the victims’ deaths were inevitable results of the police operations," the CHR added.

In addition, CHR said perpetrators are shielded from independent, prompt, and thorough investigations by invoking processes supposedly created to ensure protection and promotion of rights and freedoms.

"The Commission reiterates its earlier finding that investigation and prosecution of alleged drug-related killings do not abide by the standards and guidelines set up in the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death," the CHR said.

"With the support of presidential directive and other issuances, the PNP’s repeated denial of the Commission’s access to police records is indicative of the lack of transparency and impartiality in its internal processes. Given the conclusions of this report, the Commission finds that the government has not only failed in its obligation to respect and protect the human rights of every citizen, in particular, victims of drug-related killings, but it has also encouraged a culture of impunity that shields perpetrators from being held to account," the CHR added.

The CHR then stressed that while it supports campaigns to combat the effects and proliferation of dangerous drugs, the constitutional office's effort needs government support.

"CHR reminds the state that such measures must be coupled with a strong drive to promote due process, equal protection, full accountability, and the rule of law, thus, fulfilling its fundamental duty to uphold the rights and dignity of all," it added.

'Rehash,' says Palace

The Palace dismissed the CHR's report as a mere rehash of old allegations.

"While we see a rehash of old issues, we are pleased that this body has independently exercised its mandate, a testament to how the Duterte Administration has allowed our democratic civic space to be enriched under his term," acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar said.

"Nonetheless, we ask the CHR to coordinate with the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat so that its recommendations may be discussed with all the government offices it has put to task," he added. — BM, GMA News