by PhilRights Staff

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

Duterte’s Bloody Drug War Continues with Military Assistance

The Manila Standard reports that there was a joint military and police anti-drug operation in Cotabato city. The operation targeted a drug “lair” and involved a shoot-out that reportedly included high-power firearms, resulting in the deaths of nine suspects. Manila Standard referred to this raid as “the second biggest in terms of the number of suspects killed,” noting that 11 were killed in the same district of Matalam town in an operation last year.

Meanwhile, President Duterte has expressed a desire for a more “militaristic” training for the police, according to a Philippine Star report. This is contrary to Section 6, Article 16 of the Constitution which states the police shall be “civilian in character.” The report also recalled Duterte’s desire to revive the Philippine Constabulary, a dreaded institution that committed many atrocities under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

National ID System may be Used to Target Human Rights Defenders

ANC and Davao Today are both reporting that a national ID system law has been passed by the congressional bicameral committee, the penultimate step before becoming law. This measure mandates every person 18 years old and above to register their personal data. ANC reports that there are doubts on whether the ID system would actually make combating crime and terrorism easier. ANC also recalled the COMELEC data hack that leaked the personal data of millions of Filipinos.

Davao Today further reported that ACT Partylist has said the law would be an infringement of Filipino’s right to privacy as a tool of surveillance, control, and repression and “another step closer for the Philippines to become a police state.” ACT Partylist representative Antonio Tinio also noted that the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the government agency in charge of the National ID system, has entered into a contract with US-based firm Unisys, a firm which has already been implicated in several corruption controversies abroad. Karapatan also condemned the passage of the National ID system saying it may be used for surveillance and government witch-hunts.

In the locking down of Boracay last month,  reporter Raissa Robles noted how a strict ID system was put in place in Boracay which created a de-facto martial law on the island. She juxtaposed this to her opposition to a national ID system which she says “is meant to control the movement of the population and to identify not just suspected criminals but also critics of the government, communist and Muslim rebels.”

Duterte Hurls Unfounded Rumors at Assassinated Priest

Rappler reports that President Duterte went on record in Cebu as saying that the assassinated priest Father Mark Ventura could have had illicit affairs with four married women. Tuguegarao Archbishop denounced this as unfounded rumors and Caloocan Bishop said that “murder is murder.”

It is unclear where Duterte got his information and it is also unclear what the president’s motives would be to needlessly slander the reputation of an assassinated priest.

Father Mark Ventura was an activist-priest who fought against big mining interests in the communities he served.

Human Rights Violations in First Year of Martial Law in Mindanao

The Philippine Star reports that the human rights group Karapatan has submitted to United Nations independent experts a report on the violations of civil and political rights done during martial law in Mindanao. Karapatan lists at least 49 victims of extrajudicial killings, 22 cases of torture, 116 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 89 victims of illegal arrest and detention, and 336,124 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings since the imposition of martial law in the island.

Davao Today meanwhile reports on the solemn commemoration of  the anniversary of the imposition of martial law in Mindanao by various groups. Recounting abuses,  Barug Katungod Mindanao reported 130 cases of extrajudicial killings of peasant and indigenous activists; Karapatan reported 661 cases of faked or forced surrenders; Sandugo reported that one to two Lumad schools were being attacked every day since Duterte came into power.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines urged victims of torture under martial law to provide details so that they could validate and confirm the human rights abuses, as the Manila Bulletin reports. This while spokesperson Colonel Edgard Arevalo maintains that there are no verified human rights violations committed by the military during this time, according to an ABS-CBN report.  On May 24, SunStar reported that Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque once again dismissed allegations of human rights violations committed under Martial Law in Mindanao. Roque reportedly told critics to “shut up” and dared them to show evidence.

MUST READ: Deutsche Welle’s Investigation into Drug War Numbers

Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, published the results of their months-long investigation into the confusing tallies of deaths related to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Published earlier this month, the piece points out that “nobody seems to know the real numbers — not even the police” and proceeds to sift through the various sources of statistics from media lists to Philippine National Police data.

What emerges is a convoluted and poorly thought out system that fails the basic task of providing reliable numbers. Worryingly, it concludes that “the very source of numbers is flawed” and that the police are now “the singular source of information on the drug war.”

Read the story here. 

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