"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Monday, August 22, 2016

Death penalty will set Philippines in wrong direction, says AI

1,800 drugs-related killings recorded since president Duterte took office seven weeks ago
1,800 drugs-related killings recorded since president Duterte took office seven
weeks ago.
Since President Duterte took office on June 30, this country has seen so many people killed by vigilante death squads. The "kill list" tallied from that time by the Philippine National Police presents an appalling death toll of 465 extrajudicial executions.

The President has acknowledged abuses in the war on drugs, but is not backing down from a shoot-to-kill order against drug dealers. He has also ordered the reinstatement of the death penalty as a deterrent to crime, which he has pledged to eradicate in the first 3 to 6 months of his presidency.

Mr. Duterte has explained these draconian measures that have given the Philippines the international reputation of being Asia's latest killing field, reminiscent of the genocidal slaughter of up to half a million Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge when they occupied Phnom Penh in 1975.

He has justified these massacres, saying that most drug dealers and addicts slain in gun battles had put up a fight, but he was sure some were "salvaged" - a local term for extrajudicial killings by law enforcers. The excuse has alarmed human rights activists who denounced it as "at least, legally questionable," as an attempt to whitewash law enforcement agents' involvement in the killings, or to look for scapegoats in the witch-hunt for those responsible for the summary executions.

Mr. Duterte has been battling with international organizations condemning his controversial crime war that has claimed 1,000 lives. He hit out on Wednesday at "stupid" UN criticism, warning it not to interfere in Philippine domestic affairs. "Why should the United Nations be so easily swayed in the affairs of this republic? There were only 1,000 killed," he said.

"What's the problem? You inject politics. Only 1,000 died, and you put my country in peril, in jeopardy?" he said. He should have been asked: Why are you not bothered by the killings of Filipinos on the basis of nothing more than suspicion of having committed crimes. He told foreign human rights watchdogs "not to investigate us as though we are criminals" and warned they would not be treated well in the Philippines.

Amnesty International (AI) has told Mr. Duterte he must fulfill his inauguration pledge to uphold the country's commitment to international law and lead a break with the country's "poor human rights record."

Lend substance to words

"President Duterte was elected on a mandate to uphold the rule of law," the London-based AI said. "It is encouraging that he spoke of honoring the Philippines' obligations under international law in his inauguration speech. But now that he is in power, he needs to lend substance to those words and break with his earlier rhetoric. Throughout his campaign, the President made inflammatory remarks that, if translated to policy, would mark a sharp deterioration in the already problematic human rights situation in the Philippines. President Duterte's promises to adhere to the rule of law must be translated into actual policy and implemented in practice," AI said.

Since winning the election, AI noted, Mr. Duterte has "triggered widespread alarm" by calling for the restoration of the death penalty, vowing to preside over a wave of extrajudicial executions, threatening journalists and intimidating human rights defenders.

Regional leader

"This is a context where a climate of impunity for human rights violations prevails in the Philippines, including for torture and ill treatment. Only 1 police officer has ever been brought to justice under laws criminalizing torture, and few have been held accountable for killing journalists ...

"Among President Duterte's many troubling positions is his intention to restore the death penalty. Doing so would reverse a decade-long ban in the Philippines of this cruel and irreversible punishment. For this [position] the Philippines is a regional leader, as it went against the grain of other countries in the region.

"President Duterte has said that he intends to apply the death penalty to a range of crimes including offenses that do not meet the threshold of 'most serious crimes,' which is the only category of crimes for which international law allows the death penalty.

"There is no evidence that the death penalty serves as any more of a deterrent than prison. At a time when this cruel and inhuman and degrading punishment has been abolished in the majority of the world's countries, reimposing it will set [the Philippines] in the wrong direction."

Source: opinion.inquirer.net, August 22, 2016

Number of deaths soars in Philippines war on drugs


1,800 drugs-related killings recorded since president Duterte took office seven weeks ago


A victim of summary execution
A victim of summary execution.
The Philippines has recorded about 1,800 drug-related killings since President Rodrigo Duterte took office seven weeks ago and launched a war on narcotics, far higher than previously believed, according to police figures.

Philippine national police chief Ronald Dela Rosa told a Senate committee on Monday that 712 drug traffickers and users had been killed in police operations since July 1st.

Police were also investigating 1,067 other drug-related killings, Nr Dela Rosa said, without giving details. The comments came a day after Mr Duterte lashed out at the United Nations for criticising the wave of deaths.

As recently as Sunday, the number of suspected drug traffickers killed in Mr Duterte’s war on drugs had been put at about 900 by Philippine officials. But this number included people who died since Mr Duterte won the May 9th presidential election.

Mr Duterte said in a bizarre and strongly worded late-night news conference on Sunday that the Philippines might leave the United Nations and invite China and others to form a new global forum, accusing it of failing to fulfil its mandate.

However, his foreign minister, Perfecto Yasay, said on Monday the Philippines would remain a UN member and described the president’s comments as expressions of “profound disappointment and frustration”.

“We are committed to the UN despite our numerous frustrations and disappointments with the international agency,” Mr Yasay told a news conference.

UN criticism

Last week, two UN human rights experts urged Manila to stop the extra-judicial executions and killings.

Mr Yasay said Mr Duterte has promised to uphold human rights in the fight against drugs and has ordered the police to investigate and prosecute offenders. He criticised the UN rapporteurs for “jumping to an arbitrary conclusion that we have violated human rights of people”.

“It is highly irresponsible on their part to solely rely on such allegations based on information from unnamed sources without proper substantiation,” he said of the United Nations.

Senator Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of the president, started a two-day congressional inquiry into the killings on Monday, questioning top police and anti-narcotics officials to explain the “unprecedented” rise in killings.

“I am disturbed that we have killings left and right as breakfast every morning,” she said.

“My concern does not only revolve around the growing tally of killings reported by the police. What is particularly worrisome is that the campaign against drugs seems to be an excuse for some law enforcers and other elements like vigilantes to commit murder with impunity,” Ms De Lima said.

Source: Reuters, August 22, 2016

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