efe-epaManila

Some 421,724 addicts have been rehabilitated by the Philippine government during its three years of war on drugs, an official said on Thursday, after a United Nations rights body voted to set up a probe into alleged war crimes committed during the violent anti-narcotics campaign.

Defending the anti-drug drive that began immediately after President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, Undersecretary of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Severo Catura criticized the media and human rights groups for focusing only on the deaths in the campaign.

"Rather than focusing on the positive things that we've been doing, they'll focus on those gory things," Catura told reporters in Manila.

The war on drugs was Duterte’s one of key election promises but the campaign turned brutal in which, according to the UN and human rights groups, over 27,000 people have been killed.

Catura dismissed the figures and accused the activists of manipulating the numbers and including in their figures homicides under investigation not linked to drugs.

According to government figures released Thursday, some 5,435 people have been killed in anti-drug operations between July 1, 2016 and April 30, 2019. But the National Police contradicted the figure and in an update on Thursday said that these deaths exceed 6,700.

“We tend to be focused mainly on the number of killings of perpetrators, but we never got the chance to look at the number of victims by these perpetrators,” Catura said.

Regarding a resolution adopted last week by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the Philippines, Catura said the move was politically motivated and supported by European countries that do not understand that the drug problem in the country was totally different from what they may be familiar with.

In recent days, different voices in Duterte's administration, including the president himself, have hinted at the possibility of leaving the council or even breaking off diplomatic ties with Iceland, which proposed the resolution.

However, Catura reiterated the government's willingness to continue cooperating with the UN rights body, presenting the documents they require for periodic reports.

But he clarified that they will not provide any information for the investigation arising from the resolution adopted by the 18 countries.

The latest government reports on the war on drugs released Thursday said that in three years of the campaign, 134,583 raids have been carried out in which 193,086 people have been arrested for offenses related to drug use or drug trafficking.

Of those arrested, 7,054 are high value targets, or people not involved in selling drugs on the street but a part of the higher echelons of criminal organizations, National Police spokesperson Kimberly Molitas said.

Among the high value arrests, 189 are foreigners, 282 elected political representatives, 323 government officials and 687 cartel leaders.

This contradicts the argument that the campaign has focused on consumers and low profile traffickers from lower economic classes, said Molitas.

The police spokesperson also said that 2,385 minors involved in illegal activities related to drugs had also been "rescued," and 1,298 of them were made to sell drugs on the street by their family members involved in trafficking as minors cannot be imprisoned by law.

The International Criminal Court early last year said it would open a preliminary inquiry into the alleged crimes committed during the war on drugs, inviting an angry Philippine withdrawal from the Rome Statute that established the court in 1998. EFE-EPA

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