The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, reports widespread human rights violations and abuses in the Philippines continue to be committed with impunity across the country. Her report has been submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs has claimed thousands of lives.Official government figures last year put that number at nearly 6,000. Human rights organizations claim more than 20,000 have been killed since 2016, largely by the country’s security forces.
U.N. rights chief Bachelet notes some small measures are being taken to prevent extra-judicial killings.These include the mandatory use of body-worn cameras and alternative recording devices in police operations.
Despite these steps, she said she continues to receive disturbing reports of severe human rights violations and abuses, including killings by security forces and police in counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency operations.
“Killings by alleged vigilantes also continue to be reported, with virtually no information about any form of accountability. We have also received reports of abuses by the ‘New People’s Army’ of the Communist Party of the Philippines, including the killing of civilians, recruitment of children, and extortion,” she said.
Bachelet condemns the harassment, threats, and killings of human rights defenders and other activists. She said security forces and other violators rarely are held accountable for these crimes.
“I remain deeply concerned by continued reports of so-called “red-tagging” of human rights and environmental defenders, journalists, union activists, church workers, and humanitarian workers—publicly labelling them as Communists with a view to discrediting their human rights work and encouraging attacks against them,” said Bachelet.
The High Commissioner is calling on all sides to end the ugly rhetoric that is putting the lives and well-being of civic activists at risk. She said attacks against independent media, condoning extra-judicial killings and other violations and abuses must stop.
She notes this is especially important now as the Philippines heads into an election year when political rhetoric can turn into violence. The Philippines’ presidential and vice-presidential elections will be held next May as part of the country’s general elections.