By Charmaine A. Tadalan, Reporter
EXTRAJUDICIAL killings (EJKs) remain the “chief human rights concern” in the Philippines, the US State Department said in its 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
“Extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and, after a sharp rise with the onset of the anti-drug campaign in 2016, they continued in the reporting year, albeit at a lower level,” the report stated.
Citing government data from July 2016 to July 2018, a total of 105,658 anti-drug operations had been conducted, which led to the deaths of 4,854 civilians and 87 members of security forces.
The report noted that figures provided by the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs varied widely from reported numbers of non-governmental organizations due to differing definitions of EJKs.
The Commission on Human Rights, for its part, investigated 301 new complaints of alleged EJKs, of which 70 cases stemmed from drug-related killings as of August.
The CHR also suspected involvement of the Philippine National Police or the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in 208 of the said complaints, while paramilitary personnel were involved in 19.
Moreover, the report also flagged the Duterte administration’s attitude towards international and non-governmental investigations.
“Government officials were under pressure not to cooperate or respond to the views of international human rights organizations,” the report stated.
“Local human rights activists continued to encounter occasional harassment, mainly from security forces or local officials from areas in which incidents under investigation occurred.”
The report also cited President Duterte’s stand against corruption, but also noted the government did not effectively implement anti-graft and corruption laws.
“All three organizations were underresourced, but they actively collaborated with the public and civil society and appeared to operate independently and to use their limited resources effectively,” the report stated, referring to the Office of the Ombudsman, the Sandiganbayan, and the Commission on Audit.
“Despite government efforts to file charges and obtain convictions in a number of cases, officials continued to engage in corrupt practices with relative impunity.”