THE PHILIPPINES would ask government agents to investigate 250 more cases of what could have been wrongful deaths in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign, the country’s Justice chief told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday.
Philippine prosecutors have filed charges in court against law enforcers in four of 52 cases where suspected drug pushers died in President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s war on drugs, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said in his UN statement, a copy of which was given to reporters on Tuesday.
He represented the Philippines virtually during a high-level segment of the 49th regular session of the UN council in Geneva, Switzerland.
The 250 cases could cover police raids from July 2016 to June 2020, Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar told reporters in a Viber message.
An inter-agency committee formed 15 teams last year that probed extralegal killings and human rights violations, Mr. Guevarra said.
The Philippines has also invited two representatives from the United Nations to discuss human rights issues and ways to make violators accountable, he said.
“The Philippines will remain positively engaged with the international community and all human rights mechanisms on all issues concerning rule of law and institutions in the country,” he said. “But we will draw the line between parties that engage in good faith, and those that abuse and exploit these mechanisms to make demands of accountability with little or no factual basis.”
Justice Undersecretary Adrian S. Sugay last year said the International Criminal Court (ICC) might use the Department of Justice’s findings in the 52 cases in its own investigation.
The ICC, which investigates and prosecutes people charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression in November said it would ask the Philippine government to provide proof that it had investigated its war on drugs that has killed thousands, days after the tribunal suspended an initial probe.
The ICC was also set to probe vigilante-style killings in Davao City when Mr. Duterte was still its vice mayor and mayor.
“Never mind about the ICC, I don’t care about that,” Mr. Duterte said in mixed English and Filipino in a televised speech on Tuesday night. “I just hope that somebody, maybe not even the next president, would find the resolve to just continue with the drive against drugs because I said it will destroy our country.”
The Philippines would continue to cooperate with the UN on human rights under the next government, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a separate statement, citing Mr. Guevarra’s speech at the UN meeting.
Philippines’ “commitment to human rights will remain unaffected by the passing incumbency of administrations, rooted as it is in our long history of engagement with this council and reflected in policies that protect and promote the fundamental rights and freedoms of our people,” Mr. Guevarra said.
Filipino lawyers have been calling on the ICC to resume its probe of Mr. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, saying the Philippine Justice department was only looking into 52 deaths out of the tens of thousands killed.
The government has taken an increasingly large role in targeting civilians, “no longer trying to create distance by ‘outsourcing’ the majority of violence to vigilantes,” US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project said in a report on Nov. 18.
After analyzing data and information from at least 40 sources, the group said in a report the Philippine government had been undercounting civilian deaths in the drug war.
At least 1,100 deaths in the bloody campaign have not been counted by the government. “We now estimate at least 7,742 civilians have been killed in the drug war since 2016.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan