The so-called war on drugs continues to catch international attention

21. December 2021 | "War on Drugs", Human Rights News

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) counts a total of 6,215 deaths in the so-called war on drugs between July 2016 and October 2021. However, calculations by human rights organizations as well as the ICC suggest a much higher number of extralegal killings (EJKs) reaching up to 30,000. According to the PDEA, during this period 315,535 people were also arrested. This includes nearly 14,000 “important targets”; among them, for example, 349 foreign nationals and 509 government employees.

The ongoing so-called war on drugs continues to attract international attention. After the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched its investigation into crimes against humanity in July 2021, since November 2021 it has been interrupted. Under the three-year UN Joint Programme (UN JP), which began in July 2021, the UN Human Rights Council is particularly concerned with building state capacity to investigate and prosecute extralegal killings. Nonetheless, the impunity of police officers continues – very few cases of such extralegal killings are investigated. One of the 52 cases that have been examined by the Department of Justice (DOJ) is the murder of Spanish citizen Diego Lapuente. International pressure helped bring about the investigation, the arrest of the perpetrators, to uncover an exemplary set of police actions in the so-called war on drugs.

The Dutch government honored Catholic priest and Duterte critic Flaviano Villanueva by awarding him with this year’s Human Rights Tulip award, with €100,000 in prize money, on Nov. 24, 2021. As a member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), he founded the Paghilom program in 2016. It supports families of victims of extralegal killings. Surviving orphans and widows have usually lost their main breadwinner and face increasing poverty and marginalization. The program focuses on livelihood, health care and education, but also on legal aid, mental health and collective mourning. “Paghilum” means healing. Villanueva has been advocating human rights for 35 years. A group of church clergy were charged with incitement to sedition in 2019. The accusations were made in connection with a video that linked Rodrigo Duterte and his family to illegal drug trafficking. Villanueva has not been acquitted so far.

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