UN drug war probe rejected by top Duterte diplomat

The Philippines says around 6,600 people have been killed by police in shootouts with suspected drug dealers. (Bloomberg pic)

MANILA: The Philippines said it won’t abide by a United Nations resolution looking to investigate President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, which has killed thousands in the Southeast Asian country, according to a Bloomberg report.

“We will not accept a politically partisan and one-sided resolution, so detached from the truth on the ground,” Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said in a statement after the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday adopted a resolution urging a comprehensive inquiry into the drug war. It was proposed by Iceland and supported by 18 nations.

Locsin said “there will be consequences” for Western countries pushed for the probe. He also denied the government’s anti-drug campaign had led to any deaths. “What killings?” he tweeted.

Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said countries backing Iceland’s proposal have been misinformed about the drug war, adding that the planned probe was partisan and undermined Philippine sovereignty.

Before the rights body voted on Thursday, Duterte told the media that he would only allow the probe if it did not “add intrigue” to his campaign against illegal drugs.

Since taking office in 2016, the president has waged a campaign against drugs that has killed thousands and been condemned by human rights advocates. Philippine police place drug-related killings at 6,600 during his presidency – a quarter of the 27,000 estimated by rights groups.

The first-ever resolution on the Philippines, led by Iceland, was adopted by a vote of 18 countries in favour and 14 against, including China, with 15 abstentions, including Japan.

“This is not just a step towards paying justice for the thousands of families of victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, but it is also a message that we collectively send out to those who have praised President Duterte,” said Ellecer “Budit” Carlos of the Manila-based rights group iDefend.

“This war on drugs, as we have repeatedly said, it’s a sham war,” he told a news briefing in Geneva.

Filipino activists say tens of thousands are being killed as police terrorise poor communities, using the cursory drug “watch lists” to identify suspected users or dealers, and executing many of them under the guise of sting operations.

Myca Ulpina, a 3-year-old killed on June 29 near Manila, was among the latest and youngest known victims of the crackdown. Police say her father Renato had used his daughter as a human shield.

The Philippines delegation lobbied hard against the resolution, which asks national authorities to prevent extrajudicial killings and cooperate with UN human rights boss Michelle Bachelet, who is to report her findings in June 2020.

“One-sided”

Philippines Ambassador Evan Garcia, speaking after the vote, read a statement by his foreign ministry rejecting the resolution as “politically-partisan and one-sided”. His country is among the council’s 47 members.

Garcia said the Duterte administration was committed to upholding justice, adding: “We will not tolerate any form of disrespect or acts of bad faith. There will be consequences, far-reaching consequences.”

Laila Matar of Human Rights Watch criticised his comments.

“It was quite clear that they threatened consequences for those who had supported the resolution, which in turn makes us concerned for the many human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists on the ground,” she told the briefing.

Duterte, asked by reporters in Manila whether he would allow access to UN rights officials to investigate, said: “Let them state their purpose and I will review it.”