By PhilRights Staff

Welcome to HR Insights, a weekly roundup of human rights news in the Philippines. This week…

Duterte’s feeble defense vs. ICC preliminary examination: “I am expressing a personal outrage”

“But when I express myself, ‘I will kill you,’ I am expressing a personal outrage. I never ordered anybody, not a single security guard even, to kill this Mr Santos, kill this Mr Cruz.”

That’s President Duterte as quoted by Rappler in its reporting of Duterte’s efforts to “outline his arguments against a possible guilty verdict from the ICC.”

Days after the the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it will be opening a preliminary examination into the alleged deaths associated with the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, the president has already offered a litany of retorts. For example, he followed the above quote with this bit absurdity:

“I can face the ICC. If they want to indict me and convict me, fine. I will gladly do it for my country…I would love to experience what Rizal experienced.”

A more sedate response comes from the the Philippine Embassy to The Netherlands – where the the ICC is based – which issued a statement saying that they believe that “the Office of the Prosecutor will find that there is no reasonable basis to proceed to an investigation of the situation in the Philippines.”

The statement also insists that the so-called war on drugs is a “legitimate law enforcement operation, consistent with the sovereign duty to protect its people,” adding that “any alleged human rights violation purportedly in relation thereto is being investigated.”

Read the full statement here.

CHR: “Premature” to praise PNP’s retaking of anti-illegal drug operations

While acknowledging the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) efforts to implement tighter guidelines in its Tokhang operations as an “improvement,” the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is not prepared to commend the campaign as “less bloody.”

CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline de Guia shared the sentiments with Rappler, adding that she hopes that the police would follow the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s example, which has counted two deaths in its drug operations since President Duterte assumed office.

IP Group: Attacks versus human rights defenders, communities intensifying in the Cordillera

Indigenous people’s group Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) has issued an alert, appealing for support against Philippine security forces subjecting indigenous peoples and advocates with “criminalization, illegal arrests and detention, political vilification, harassment and intimidation” since February 2017.

The statement adds: “If not put to a stop, we fear that the human rights violations will escalate to extrajudicial killings and abductions as what we experienced in past regimes.”

Audrey Beltran, CHRA secretary-general, signed the statement, which identified at least “Fifteen (15) cases of illegal arrests and detention” in the past 12 months, adding that, “Every month from July to October 2017, the 7th Infantry Division (ID) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) filed trumped-up charges against human rights defenders, all members of legitimate peoples’ organizations.”

These actions, they believe, are due to the Duterte government’s focus on the Cordillera as a priority area for its “’counter-insurgency’ plan under Oplan Kapayapaan and its all out-war against the New People’s Army.” Unsurprisingly, it’s the IP communities and advocates that bear the brunt of the campaign. The statement adds: “Leaders and members of people’s organizations, including the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) are experiencing constant threats to their lives, including suspicious acts of surveillance.”

Read the full statement, along with a partial list of documented human rights violations, here.

Rep. Alejano: PNP spot reports reveal patterns in killings 

Opposition lawmaker Gary Alejano, one of the complainants in the International Criminal Court against Duterte and other administration officials, unveiled his office’s findings from a review of 1,005 spot reports that reveal patterns in Tokhang operations.

The Inquirer reports that among the patterns Alejano and his team identified are the following:

  • The highest number of killings happened in Duterte’s first two months in office, with most of the deaths occurring in Metro Manila, CALABARZON, and Central Luzon.
  • The number of drug operations took a downturn in September 2017, coinciding with public outrage from the high profile deaths of Kian delos Santos and several other minors
  • Usual time of operations are between midnight and six in the morning. Alejano believes that nighttime operations are for concealing “unlawful activities, to prevent people from becoming witnesses.”
  • Most of the confiscated weapons from supposed nanlaban deaths are cheap, easily accessible .38-caliber revolvers, most of which have defaced serial numbers – all the better to plant them on dead targets.
  • At least 50 percent of those killed in the sample had between one and six sachets of shabu supposedly in their possession.

While the Inquirer notes that Alejano himself acknowledges that the findings are inconclusive, these patterns track with the narratives of those who have either witnessed or survived these supposedly legitimate police operations.

The task now is to expand this review to cover as much of the 4,000 deaths resulting from anti-illegal drug operations that the PNP itself has reported.

Must Read: Rappler’s Explainer of the ICC and its track record

Following the announcement that the ICC will open a preliminary examination on charges of state-sponsored killings in the so-called war on drugs, the court has found itself subject to much reporting from the local press and even more reactions from Duterte supporters and critics alike.

Rappler, itself a current target of the administration, published a story on the court, explaining what ‘preliminary examination’ entails (possibly years’ worth of investigations) and tackles questions such as the ICC’s track record (not perfect), the possibility of the Philippines backing out of the Rome Statute, which created the ICC (a bad idea), and finally, if the ICC’s announcement would put any appreciable pressure on Duterte and his administration (yes).

Read the explainer here.

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