War on Drugs
Image Courtesy of Manila Bulletin News

[box type=”default” size=”large”] In the wake of the murder of two kids by police [/box]

MANILA — Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), has urged the United Nations (UN) to conduct an inquiry into President Duterte’s “abusive war on drugs” after two children were murdered by police in three days.

Kine, a longtime Duterte nemesis, said the apparent extrajudicial executions by the police of Kian Lloyd de los Santos, 17, a senior high school student, and Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, a student of the University of the Philippines at Diliman (UP-Diliman), whom Duterte later claimed to be a distant relative, should prompt the international community to slap sanctions against Duterte and his minions.

“Duterte has also systematically sought to vilify, harass and intimidate those carrying out domestic and international accountability efforts that have challenged his drug war. The targets of the harassment campaign include human rights organizations and activists, lawyers, UN officials, journalists and lawmakers,” he stressed.

“Concerted action by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to address Duterte’s abusive drug war is crucial. The council should press the Philippines government to accept an independent international investigation into all allegations of extrajudicial killings and to hold those responsible to account. The council should also press the government to cooperate with the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, grant unfettered and unconditional access to the rapporteur, and immediately stop all official incitement and instigation of drug war killings,” Kine said.

“A fundamental obligation of every government is to protect the lives of its children, not to empower police and their agents to murder them,” Kine said. “Until Duterte ends his abusive drug war and allows UN-led international probe, child-killers among the police will continue to get away with murder.”

“While several dozen children younger than 18 have died in drug war-related killings since June 2016, circumstances suggest that the Philippine National Police (PNP) deliberately targeted the two children,” Kine observed.

“The apparent willingness of police to deliberately target children for execution marks an appalling new level of depravity in this so-called drug war,” he said. “These killings demonstrate that Duterte’s rejection of the rule of law has made all Filipinos potential ‘drug-war’ victims, no matter how young.”

On September 6, 2017, a passerby spotted the body of Reynaldo de Guzman, 14, a Grade 5 student from Pasig City, floating in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, 20 days after he was reported missing.

De Guzman had been last seen alive on August 18 in the company of Arnaiz whom the Caloocan City PNP admitted was shot dead by its operatives later on the same day, accusing the UP student of robbing a taxi driver, who has also disappeared.

Two days earlier, Caloocan police killed De los Santos after he purportedly fired at them during an anti-drug operation.

This claim has been shattered by eyewitness accounts and close circuit television (CCTV) camera footage that showed the police nabbing and executing an unarmed de los Santos and dumping his body in an alley.
The killings of De los Santos and de Guzman bring to at least 54 the number of children killed by police and “unidentified gunmen” in the “war on drugs” since July 2016, according to data from the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center.

Most of those children had been shot while in the company of adults who were the apparent target of the shooting.

Both Duterte and his fraternity brother, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, have dismissed those killings as “collateral damage,” with the former predicting there will be more such victims.

Public uproar over the killings of De los Santos, Arnaiz and De Guzman has prompted Duterte, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the PNP to promise thorough investigations into their deaths.

In August, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) filed murder and torture charges against the police officers implicated in the de los Santos killing.

Yet, on September 8, Duterte described De Guzman killing as a deliberate act of “sabotage” to “discredit” the PNP.

There are major concerns about the willingness and capacity of the Philippine authorities to conduct thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations into drug war-related killings, HRW said.

In July, police officials allowed the police officers facing homicide charges in the 2016 killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. to return to work.

The officers were reinstated even though inquiries by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Senate reached the conclusion that the officers had committed “premeditated murder” when they shot Espinosa to death in a Leyte jail cell on November 5, 2016. 

Espinosa had surrendered to the police following public accusations by Duterte that he was a drug trafficker.

The NBI and the Senate rejected the officers’ assertion that Espinosa was killed in his cell after he pulled out a concealed caliber .45 pistol.