Human rights organizations have called on the United Nations to investigate possible crimes against humanity during controversial war on drugs in the Philippines.
The call by the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch comes days ahead of a key UN Human Rights Council vote to approve a resolution calling for a probe into the brutal three-year anti-drug campaign in which thousands of suspected drug dealers have been gunned down.
Nonprofit Amnesty International said in a report released on Monday that no accountability had been fixed on government officials with over 27,000 people killed in the drug war - although the police have only acknowledged 6,600 deaths in anti-narcotics operations.
“Three years on, President (Rodrigo) Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ continues to be nothing but a large-scale murdering enterprise for which the poor continue to pay the highest price,” Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia, said in a video-conference in Manila.
The Amnesty report flags possible crimes against humanity and documents dozens of extra-judicial killings. It called executions the general "modus operandi" during anti-drug raids.
"The new report, ‘They just kill : Ongoing extrajudicial executions and other violations in the Philippines’ war on drugs’, shows police operating with total impunity as they murder people from poor neighborhoods whose names appear on manufactured ‘drug watch lists’ established outside of any legal process," the rights group said in a statement.
According to the nonprofit, the "bloodiest killing field" of the war against drugs had been shifted from Manila to Bulacan – a province 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the capital, where more than 500 killings were registered in 2018, away from the media glare.
In its investigation, Amnesty International identified 20 cases in which 27 people were killed, many of which appear to be extrajudicial executions.
These killings took place across Bulacan province between May 2018 and April 2019.
The rights watchdog said it carried out interviews with 58 people, including witnesses of extrajudicial executions, families of victims, local officials and human rights activists.
Another nonprofit, Human Rights Watch, released a report called "Collateral Damage," focusing on the psychological, emotional and economic impact of the war against drugs on children.
"More than 100 children have been killed over the past three years, either targeted or caught in the crossfire, according to local human rights and children’s monitors," the report said.
"The deaths of parents or guardians have also left many children alone, vulnerable and forced to fend for themselves," it added.
Both AI and HRW have urged the UN rights council to open an "independent and impartial" investigation into rights violations in the Philippines, a proposal already mentioned in a resolution tabled by Iceland in the UNHRC.
The 47 members of the council, currently gathered in Geneva, is set to vote on the resolution at the end of this week, with at least 28 countries pledging to back the proposal.
The Philippine administration led by President Duterte has warned that it would not allow any UN representative to enter the country and any investigation would be considered an interference in its internal affairs.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government knew the real ground situation better than any other entity, and any attempt to interfere in its way of "maintaining peace and order" would be an affront and an encroachment upon national sovereignty.