PH police chief says UN rapporteurs ‘meddling’ for calling for probe into drug war deaths

Police inspect a gun recovered during an anti-drug operation in Tondo, Manila. Photo: Basilio H. Sepe/ABS-CBN News
Police inspect a gun recovered during an anti-drug operation in Tondo, Manila. Photo: Basilio H. Sepe/ABS-CBN News

The Philippines’ chief of police today lambasted the call of 11 United Nations (UN) human rights experts for an independent investigation into the numerous violations that were allegedly committed by authorities in the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign.

In a statement read at a press conference in Quezon City today, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde said the UN rapporteurs’ call for a probe was an attempt to meddle into the country’s domestic affairs.

“The UN rapporteurs’ concept of unlawful deaths is in itself a recognition of the existence of a fully functional justice system that determines what is lawful and what is not,” Albayalde said. “As far as the PNP is concerned, all our actions are governed by a set of operational procedures founded on the basic principle of respect for human rights and always consistent with the rule of law.”

The 11 UN rapporteurs released a statement on Friday asking the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate the violations, saying that they have recorded a staggering number of “unlawful deaths and police killings” committed in the Philippines’ anti-drug campaign.

“Very few independent and effective investigations have taken place, independent media and journalists are threatened, the law has been weaponised to undermine press freedom, and the independence of the judiciary is undermined,” the UN rapporteurs added.

Albayalde, however, said that not all homicide cases should be linked to the government’s war on drugs. He added that all deaths of suspects which occurred during anti-drug operations have been investigated by the police.

“With the utmost respect for human rights, the PNP upholds the rule of law, follows strict protocols in all of its anti-illegal drug operations, and will never tolerate any wrongdoing of its personnel,” Albayalde said.

He also said that all cops who have violated police rules and procedures during the anti-drug campaign were charged administratively, criminally, or both. These cops were also given administrative sanctions or were dismissed from the service.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier criticized the UN experts’ call, calling it an “intellectually challenged” and “outrageous interference” into the Philippines’ sovereignty.

Panelo also accused the UN experts of “peddling a biased and absolutely false recital of facts, adulterated with malicious imputations against the constituted authorities.”

In March, the PNP said that 5,281 suspected drug personalities have been killed during anti-drug operations since Duterte was elected in 2016. The Commission on Human Rights, however, said that the number is higher, and estimated that as many as 27,000 have died.

The PNP insists that many of those killed in anti-drug operations fought back, but a survey released in February shows that many Filipinos believe that cops are summarily executing drug suspects. Many respondents also believe that the police are involved in the illegal drug trade.

At present, the International Criminal Court is conducting a preliminary investigation into the government’s drug war despite the Philippines’ decision to leave the organization in March.

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