GENEVA (Reuters) - The Philippines said on Thursday it would review recommendations over killings in its war on drugs, but stopped short of committing to make reforms or prosecute police for excessive use of force after criticism from U.N. rights council members.
President Rodrigo Duterte has been widely condemned in the West for failing to curtail the killings and address activists’ allegations of systematic, state-sponsored murders by police of drug users and dealers, a charge which the authorities reject.
The United Nations Human Rights Council examined the Philippines record this week, where the government delegation said there had been no new wave of killings prompted by the campaign and denounced “alternative facts”.
Since Duterte took office 10 months ago there have been 9,432 homicide cases, including 2,692 deaths from “presumed legitimate law enforcement operations”, it said.
The Council adopted a report on Thursday comprising 257 recommendations from 95 states, roughly half voicing concern over the killings, and told the Philippines to report back “with a clear position” at its September session.
Among them was a recommendation from the United States to “ensure that all counter-narcotics operations are conducted in conformity with constitutional protections and international human rights obligations”.
“To the best of our ability we tried to explain the underlying reasons for this campaign. That is to protect the human rights of the majority of our people who stand to potentially suffer the dark consequences of unmitigated abuse of illegal drugs and to set an environment conducive to further social economic development,” Menardo Guevarra, senior deputy executive secretary in Duterte’s office, said on Thursday.
The Presidential Human Rights Committee would “review and determine what actions to take on your numerous recommendations”, he told the forum.
“The international community sent out a very strong message to the Philippines government today ... Many of the recommendations did address the extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions vis-a-vis the government’s campaign to stamp out illegal drugs,” council spokesman Rolando Gomez said.
Nearly 50 states had voiced concerns, “so that obviously speaks volumes, and now of course it is up to the government to make good on the promises that they committed to here”, Gomez told Reuters Television.
China, which during the debate congratulated Duterte’s administration on its “remarkable achievements” in protecting human rights, suggested in its recommendation that it should “address the root cause of illegal drugs through development”.
Reporting and writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Additional reporting by Marina Depetris; Editing by Alison Williams