Philippines: Vice President’s new role must mark end of drug killings
Written by Kendrick Lebron on November 7, 2019
Responding to news that Vice President Leni Robredo has accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s invitation to co-chair the government’s anti-drugs committee, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia said:
“Vice President Robredo’s pleas to end the killings and her efforts to change the government’s approach to drugs are welcome. If nothing else, it shows that global pressure is having an effect, and that the public mood in the Philippines is turning against the flawed approach of the so-called ‘war on drugs.’
“The crucial question is whether this appointment can lead to meaningful change. We have to ask whether she’ll have power to hold police officers and other officials to account, let alone the unknown gunmen suspected of many more killings. Vice President Robredo must be granted power to halt the daily killings and change the deadly command structure we have documented, otherwise this move will be an empty gesture.
“Her appointment does not change the fact that the Duterte administration’s ‘war on drugs’ amounts to crimes against humanity. Just last month, Duterte told a police official to ‘go and kill everybody.’ If this incitement to kill from the very top doesn’t end, the killings and other human rights violations won’t end either.”
On 6 November, Vice President Leni Robredo, a member of the opposition Liberal Party, accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s invitation for her to co-chair the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs (ICAD), alongside the chief of the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). A long-standing critic of the ‘war on drugs’, Vice President Robredo recently reiterated her view that the campaign has failed, leading to a public challenge from President Duterte to take over the ‘war on drugs’ from him.
Thousands of people have been killed in a wave of state-sanctioned violence since the start of President Duterte’s presidency in 2016, many of which are extrajudicial executions. In July 2019, Amnesty International published a report, “They just kill”: Ongoing extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations in the Philippines ‘war on drugs’ which documented how police commanders who previously supervised abusive operations in Manila were later transferred to Central Luzon and have continued to oversee a brutal campaign in the province. Amnesty International considers that the killings reach the threshold of crimes against humanity.