See More on Facebook

Current affairs, Politics

Amnesty International responds to Duterte’s government

The rights organization tells government spokesman Panelo: Do your homework.

Written by

Updated: July 10, 2019

Amnesty International fired back at presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Tuesday, a day after he accused the human rights monitor of politicizing the thousands of killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

“We suggest next time before the honorable presidential spokesperson makes a response, he should at least do his homework first by reading our report,” said Butch Olano, Amnesty Philippines section director.

“Accusing Amnesty International of politicizing the issue of extrajudicial executions is just another way of muddling the Duterte administration’s accountability and its complicity in the gravity of this problem,” Olano said.


Panelo on Monday slammed the London-based human rights group as “incorrigible” for insisting on a United Nations probe of the drug war killings, saying the basis for its call for an international investigation was factually wrong.

But in an interview with the Inquirer on Tuesday, Olano said the government’s response was a template for countering opposition to abuses in the war on drugs.

“That has been their automatic response when this issue arises,” he said. “But our two reports belie their response and our reports are based on facts.”

Olano said the figures that Amnesty’s report had cited, which placed the extrajudicial cases at 27,000, came from the government itself, particularly from the Philippine National Police.

“Therefore we cannot produce the basis for any data that was made public by the PNP,” he said. “The burden of the proof is on the government.”

Amnesty released its second report on the drug war, “They Just Kill,” on Monday, a follow-up to a 2017 report that also investigated the killings and abuses in Mr. Duterte’s take-no-prisoners crackdown on illegal drugs.

Both reports underscored patterns that have defined the bloody campaign since 2016, including the repeated claims of the police that warranted the use of lethal force, the widespread use of drug “watch lists” that have turned into “kill lists,” and the reported abduction of civilians by plainclothes police.

‘New killing fields’

The new report identified Bulacan province as the “new killing fields,” as opposed to the initial report that zeroed in on Metro Manila.

Amnesty cited the promotion and transfer of senior police officers that oversaw the bloody campaign in Metro Manila to Bulacan and the Central Luzon region as the reason for the sharp rise in deaths.

Bulacan local and police officials on Tuesday rejected Amnesty’s report.

Gov. Daniel Fernando said the report saddened him but promised that the provincial peace and order council would look into the rights monitors’ findings.

“Based on our tally, we’ve had more peaceful [than fatal] arrests during our [antinarcotics] operations,” Col. Chito Bersaluna, Bulacan police director, told the Inquirer, without giving figures.

Police reports sent to reporters since January showed an average of three drug suspects killed in drug operations every month.

Gen. Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police, on Tuesday said international bodies and other countries should focus not only on the number of casualties in the drug war but also on the sincerity of the PNP in keeping the crackdown within legal bounds.

“We do not tolerate abuses [committed by] our people,” Albayalde told reporters. “We rebuke our own policemen. In fact, we even send them to jail if they make mistakes or commit abuses.”

Unlike its first investigation, Amnesty this time strengthened its call for an international investigation of the killings. 

Despite Panelo’s claims that the Philippines’ own judicial system is open to investigate the cases, Olano said the prevailing fear amid a culture of impunity hindered victims to actually seek justice from local courts.

“The judicial system cannot begin unless there is a complaint from the family or affected member. Except this does not happen because the process cannot start in the first place because most of the victims are poor,” he said.

“Even if there is the Public Attorney’s Office, that office itself handles too many cases already,” he said, adding that seeking help from private lawyers, on one hand, would incur too much expenses.

“And in these cases where evidence is tampered with and there are no credible and real police reports because these all appear as templates, what can you use when you actually get to court?” Olano said.

Only one case of prosecution

The report noted that since 2016, there has been only a single case of prosecution related to the drug war killings, citing the high-profile case of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos in August 2017. Officers involved in his killing were caught on video dragging him away moments before he was shot.

Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty’s regional director for East and Southeast Asia, said the government’s continuous effort to thwart any international investigation was consistent with Amnesty’s view that the Duterte administration had something to hide.

“If the government has nothing to fear, then it should welcome the investigation,” Bequelin told reporters on Monday.

‘Killing machine’

Sen. Leila de Lima, detained on what she calls trumped-up drug charges for investigating the drug war killings, on Tuesday supported calls for a UN probe of President Duterte’s crackdown on narcotics. 

In a statement, De Lima said the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) must look into the bloody campaign.

“While [Amnesty] has called Duterte’s war on drugs a ‘large-scale murdering enterprise,’ I labeled it a monstrous ‘killing machine’ whose continued rampage with almost no accountability within the national system requires the focus and concrete actions from such global instruments of justice as the UNHRC and the [International Criminal Court],” she said.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

Philippine Daily Inquirer
About the Author: The Philippine Daily Inquirer is one the country’s most credible and influential newspapers with over 500 awards and citations.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Current affairs, Politics

Hong Kong government blasts riots

Hong Kong police chief blasts Sha Tin violence which leaves six people seriously injured. Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam broke her silence on Monday afternoon (July 15)  to condemn “rioters” and praise police after violent clashes on Sunday night that left two people in critical condition and four in a serious state. Mrs Lam said the police had acted “professionally” and practised “restrain” in dealing with the group of protesters who hung around New Town Plaza shopping mall in Sha Tin, hours after a rally had ended. Speaking to the media at a Tai Po hospital, where six officers are still being treated, she said the police’s duty is to uphold the law and those who broke the law have to be taken to task. “Hong Kong society will not condone such violence,” she added. Secretary for Security John Lee, who also visited the hospital, told reporters

By The Straits Times
July 16, 2019

Current affairs, Politics

Hong Kong protests: Chaos speads to Sha Tin mall after rally ends

Protests continue, this time against Chinese vendors. Violent clashes between law enforcers and some protesters erupted yet again on Sunday (July 14) following a largely peaceful march hours earlier in the New Territories town of Sha Tin. About three hours after the rally ended at 5pm, police in riot gear began clearing the streets, setting off a game of cat and mouse with them and protesters trying to corner one another. Tensions peaked at about 9.30pm when officers armed with shields and batons entered New Town Plaza mall in Sha Tin and tried to disperse the crowd that was hiding there, resulting in chaos. Police officers were seen chasing after a protester, hitting him with batons and ripping his clothes off as they tried to pin him down before he managed to flee to safety with help from fellow protesters, who were trying to dodge pepper spray. Elsewhere in the mall, protesters surround

By The Straits Times
July 15, 2019

Current affairs, Politics

India asks Commonwealth to readmit Maldives

Maldives pulled out of commonwealth under previous administration over human rights concerns. India has called upon for fast-tracking the process of readmission of the Maldives to the Commonwealth. This was conveyed by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar at the 19th Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers’ Meeting (CFAMM) in London on Wednesday. “The External Affairs Minister, in his remarks, congratulated the member countries on the 70th anniversary of Commonwealth. He also noted that India is well on the path of fulfilling all the commitments made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at CHOGM 2018. The EAM called for fast-tracking of the process of re-admission of Maldives to the Commonwealth,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement. New Delhi’s support for the Indian Ocean archipelago came weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Male on his first overseas trip after being re-

By The Statesman
July 12, 2019

Current affairs, Politics

Japan’s export curbs fuel political feud in S. Korea

Seoul is in political turmoil as politicians tackle the best course of action to pursue with Japan. Japan’s decision to impose export restrictions on key hi-tech semiconductor and electronics materials to South Korea is having a political fallout here. President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday reiterated Seoul’s position that the measures are politically motivated, while criticizing Japan’s attempt to justify its actions by linking them to sanctions on North Korea. “The Japanese government is taking measures that impact our economy for political goals, and making comments that link (the measures) to North Korean sanctions without any basis. It is not beneficial for bilateral relations and security cooperation,” Moon said at a meeting with leaders of South Korea’s largest corporations on Wednesday.

By The Korea Herald
July 11, 2019

Current affairs, Politics

Thai cabinet announced and endorsed

Former coup leader and despot will be prime minister and defence minister. The appointment of new Cabinet members headed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has been endorsed by His Majesty the King. The list of the 36-member new Cabinet was announced in the Royal Gazette on Wednesday and countersigned by Prayut, who was reappointed prime minister on June 9. Prayut will also double as Defence Minister, a key position currently held by General Prawit Wongsuwan, his deputy in the outgoing government. Prawit will retain his position as a deputy prime minister and is expected to also be in charge of security affairs. The new Cabinet also has eight other ministers who have worked with Prayut and Prawit in the current post-coup government: Somkid Jatusripitak, Wissanu Krea-ngam, General Chaichan Changmongkol, Uttama Savanayana, Don Pramudwinai, Suvit Maesincee, Sontirat So

By The Nation (Thailand)
July 11, 2019

Current affairs, Politics

Four foreign militants detained in Malaysia

Militants detained as part of an anti-terror sweep. Four foreign militants were detained following anti-terror swoops in Selangor and Kedah, says Inspector Abdul Hamid Bador. The Inspector-General of Police said the four – two Myanmar nationals, a Filipino and an Indian national – were picked up by the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division (E8) between June 14 and July 3. Abdul Hamid said the first arrest was on June 14 in Klang where a 54-year-old Filipino man was detained. “The electrician was detained as he has relations with the Abu Sayyaf terror group. “He is also involved in assisting the kidnapping for ransom activities in Sabah waters. He was also listed as wanted by the Eastern Sabah Security Command,” he said. He added that the suspect used forged identification documents. The co

By The Star
July 10, 2019