MANILA (AFP/BusinessWorld) — Reports of summary executions, including of children, are multiplying in the Philippines, three United Nations experts said Monday, urging the government to investigate and curb “spiraling rights violations.”
The condemnation is the latest by human rights advocates against Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte, whose 13-month-old administration has triggered widespread alarm, notably over his deadly drug war.
“The government of the Philippines must urgently address growing reports of human rights violations, including murder, threats against indigenous peoples and the summary execution of children,” the panel of three experts said in a statement.
One of the experts cited is the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, who has previously faced harsh criticism from Duterte loyalists over an unofficial visit she made to the Philippines in May that the government claims was not authorized.
“We are shocked by the increasing levels of violence,” the group added, specifically highlighting threats against human rights defenders, trade union leaders along with those fighting to protect indigenous peoples’ land rights against business interests.
“All these cases must be investigated thoroughly and perpetrators should be brought to justice,” added the statement, co-signed by Michel Forst, the U.N. expert on human rights defenders and Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the special rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children.
While the statement did not specifically cite Duterte’s drug war, that campaign has been a key element of what the experts called “a climate of prevailing violence” in the Philippines.
The president, in his recent State of the Nation Address, vowed no let up in his battle against illegal drugs, during which police have reported killing nearly 3,200 people.
More than 2,000 other people have been killed in drug-related crimes, according to police data.
Rights groups say many of those victims have been killed by vigilante death squads linked to the government, and that Duterte may be overseeing a crime against humanity.
Assistant Secretary for Policy and Legislative Affairs Michel Kristian R. Ablan of the Presidential Communications Operations Office questioned the U.N. experts’ sources for their report saying they have not been in touch with the president’s office.
“The article mentions that the U.N. human rights experts [have] been in contact with the government of the Philippines regarding these concerns. We’re curious what agencies of government did they coordinate with.
“If it is perhaps the (Commission on Human Rights), then we would like to reach out to the U.N. to coordinate with the Office of the President,” he added.
Ablan said they are expecting to receive a copy of the full report.