The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the United States House of Representatives is set to conduct an inquiry into Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial campaign against illegal drugs this coming Thursday, July 20.
Citing figures from the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Commission emphasized the reported 7,025 drug-related killings since he assumed presidency in July 1 last year until January 21 of this year.
Duterte’s campaign to eradicate drug problem in the Philippines is among his major electoral promises.
The drug war, however, has earned heavy criticism from different local and international human rights groups for allegedly causing thousands of summary deaths—which Duterte’s administration has vehemently denied.
“Although extrajudicial killings have been a major human rights concern for some time, in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016, the Department of State recognized that such killings increased sharply over the last year,” the commission said in a statement posted in its official website.
The Philippines, as a treaty ally, has been receiving U.S. assistance, which includes both counterterrorism and counternarcotics support to the PNP.
The Commission, however, said that Duterte’s drug war and its tagged summary killings “raise questions about how the United States should balance its concerns for protecting human rights and the rule of law with its desire to maintain the bilateral alliance and continue to pursue other shared goals.”
In the upcoming hearing, the Commission said they will discuss “human rights consequences of the ‘war on drugs’ currently underway in the Philippines.”
It said it also invited panelists who “will analyze the implementation of the ‘war on drugs’ and its consequences for the human rights situation in the Philippines.”
Among the panelists invited include In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (I-DEFEND) Philippines spokesperson Ellecer Carlos, Amnesty International Senior Crisis Advisor Matthew Wells, and Human Rights Watch Asia Division Deputy Director Phelim Kine.
“They will also provide policy recommendations for ensuring accountability for human rights violations and for addressing the problems of drug abuse and trafficking in ways consistent with promoting public health and strengthening rule of law,” the Commission added.
In a separate statement, Carlos cited an alleged “40 to 50 killings everyday of the most impoverished, beaten down individuals in Philippine society.”
With the so-called drug war, Carlos claimed that Duterte has “consciously vilified human rights defenders, our commission on human rights, effectively distorted social values and taken advantage of a disoriented Philippine public.”
“The Duterte administration should address the root causes of crime and drugs there,” Carlos said.
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