THE Amnesty International welcomed Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo’s acceptance of President Duterte’s invitation to co-chair the government’s anti-drugs committee as an opportunity to end the bloody war on illegal drugs.
Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southeast Asia, also lauded 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,’” said Bequelin.
But the AI pointed out that the crucial question is whether Robredo’s 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,” reads part of the AI statement.
Bequelin also said Malacañang should grant Robredo powers “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 Wednesday, Robredo, a member of the opposition Liberal Party, accepted 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,” Robredo recently reiterated her view that the campaign has failed, leading to a public challenge from Duterte for her to take over the “war on drugs” from him.
According to AI, thousands of people have been killed in a wave of state-sanctioned violence since the start of 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.
AI said it considers that the killings have reached the threshold of crimes against humanity.