By Jil Danielle M. Caro

A US congressional body is set to conduct this week a hearing on the “human rights consequences of the war on drugs in the Philippines.”

The hearing, scheduled July 20, 10 a.m. (Washington time), will be conducted by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

This particular committee has been known to be a keen follower of Philippine affairs since the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s, when it was led by a Democrat congressman critical of the late Philippine dictator.

In recent years, the commission has been looking into human rights violation by Philippine state forces even before Rodrigo R. Duterte’s election as president in 2016.

In its advisory, the commission noted in part: “President Rodrigo Duterte was elected in May 2016 with 38.5% of the vote after campaigning on economically populist policies and a promise to eradicate the drug problem in the Philippines — to kill ‘drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings…and dump all of [them] into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.’”

It also cited the State Department’s “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016,” which acknowledged the phenomenon of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines.

In recent memory, EJKs date back to the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But EJKs were also widely reported under the administration of her successor, Benigno S. C. Aquino III, and were a subject of inquiry for the commission at that time.

“[S]uch killings,” the commission said in its advisory, have “increased sharply over the last year” when Mr. Duterte was elected president.

TLHRC’s announcement noted in part: “According to Philippine National Police (PNP) statistics, 7,025 drug-related killings were carried out between July 1, 2016, when Duterte assumed office, and Jan. 21, 2017 — an average of 34 per day.”

It also cited the Philippines as being “the largest recipient of US assistance in East Asia,” although Mr. Duterte himself has belittled time and again this assistance.

“Duterte’s ‘antidrug’ campaign and reports of extrajudicial killings raise questions about how the United States should balance its concerns for protecting human rights and the rule of law with its desire to maintain the bilateral alliance and continue to pursue other shared goals,” the commission also said in its announcement.

Among the invited witnesses are Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson of Philippine human-rights advocacy group iDEFEND; Matthew Wells, senior crisis advisor of Amnesty International; Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.

The proceedings will be live-streamed via the Commission Web site,