By Hannah Torregoza
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Sunday renewed her call for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to invite 11 United Nations (UN) experts and look into the rising number of deaths under the Duterte government’s war on drug and other rights abuses in the country.
De Lima reiterated her call for an impartial investigation on the killings after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet cited the unprecedented deaths under the government’s drug war as “a matter of most serious concern.”
“The global community is growing wary of the human rights situation in the country. The increasing number of deaths in the war on drugs, including among human rights defenders, is indeed a very serious matter that should be investigated,” de Lima said.
“If this administration really thinks it has done nothing wrong, I challenge the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to extend formal invitation to the UN special rapporteurs so that they can find out for themselves the real situation here,” she stressed.
At least 11 UN experts have earlier urged the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to initiate an independent investigation into the extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and other human rights violations in the Philippines.
Among them were Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst, Chair-Rapporteur of Working Group on Arbitrary Detention José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, and Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences Dubravka Šimonović.
“The government must be more forthright with the records of its drug war killings. Instead of threatening these experts with arrest, they should be treated as experts capable of ensuring accountability for all these unlawful deaths,” the senator said.
Bachelet, in a recent statement delivered at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, supported calls of the 11 UN special rapporteurs for the UNHRC to conduct an independent investigation into the killings.
She said the UNHRC was closely following the human rights situation in the Philippines due to the “extraordinarily high number of deaths” in the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs under Duterte.
“Even the officially confirmed number of 5,425 deaths would be a matter of most serious concern for any country,” Bachelet said, referring to the previous declaration by the government on the number of drug personalities killed during police operations.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, said that a “pro-people government will always prioritize the welfare of its people and not focus on their selfish interests.”
“In the Philippines, killings continue – it even worsens as day passes by – but our government does not seem to care,” de Lima noted.
“All they care about is to attack those who speak out against these killings and paint them as enemies of the state,” she lamented.