Philippines: Hold police to account for unlawful killings in “war on drugs”
Responding to the news that police have resumed their role in implementing the so-called “war on drugs” declared by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, Amnesty International’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, James Gomez said:
"The Philippines neither can nor should try to solve its drug problems at gunpoint."
“Since President Duterte came to power, police have unlawfully killed thousands of people, the vast majority of them from poor and marginalised communities, in attacks so extensive and brutal they may well amount to crimes against humanity. Now that police are once more returning to the forefront of anti-drug operations, the government must make sure that there is no repeat of the bloodshed seen during the past 18 months.
“To date, police have been allowed to operate in a culture of almost total impunity. It is a positive step by the Department of Justice to file murder charges against three police officers accused of killing Kian Loyd delos Santos, the teenager whose death is emblematic of the horrors of the ‘war on drugs.’ But independent investigations must cover each of the thousands of other unlawful killings, and all perpetrators, including those in positions of command, must be held to account.
“The fact that the national police chief himself has warned that this next phase of anti-drug operations may not be ‘bloodless’ highlights the need for vigilance. What the country needs is a public health-based drug policy that respects human rights, the rule of law and justice for the families of victims. The Philippines neither can nor should try to solve its drug problems at gunpoint.”
On 12 October 2017, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte reduced the police’s role in drug-related operations for the second time, in favour of the Drug Enforcement Agency. On 22 November however, President Duterte said in a national speech that he was considering revising that decision.
On 29 January of this year, police resumed their role in anti-drug operations, making visits to the homes of suspected dealers and people who use drugs. National Police Chief Ronaldo dela Rosa said the campaign should be free of violence “if offenders did not resist arrest”, but warned he could not promise a “foolproof anti-drug campaign that would be bloodless.” Police have routinely claimed that suspects “resisted” in justifying extrajudicial executions.
On the same day, the Department of Justice filed murder charges against three police officers accused of killing Kian Loyd delos Santos, a teenager whose death has galvanised criticism of unlawful killings by police.
Given the seriousness of the crimes involved and the failure of the government to effectively investigate them, Amnesty International is calling for an international investigation, by the International Criminal Court, to establish the facts, hold those responsible to account and ensure reparations to victims.