UN Human Rights commissioner urges probe on Duterte’s Davao killings
The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights urged on Tuesday Philippine judicial authorities to conduct an investigation against President Rodrigo Duterte after recently admitting that he had killed people when he was still the mayor of Davao City.
In a business forum on December 14 in Malacanang, Duterte said he had patrolled the streets on his motorcycle and killed three suspected criminals.
In several speeches and interviews, he recalled a kidnapping incident in Davao and he was among those who responded. When he saw the three suspects, he, along with the other policemen, fired at them. Duterte said he was not sure if his bullets killed the suspects.
“Such acts directly contravene the rights enshrined in Article III of the Philippine Constitution,” High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.
"The killings described by President Duterte also violate international law, including the right to life, freedom from violence and force, due process and fair trial, equal protection before the law, and innocence until proven guilty. As a government official, if he encouraged others to follow his example, he may also have committed incitement to violence.”
“The Philippines judicial authorities must demonstrate their commitment to upholding the rule of law and their independence from the executive by launching a murder investigation,” the UN human rights chief said.
"The killings committed by Mr. Duterte, by his own admission, at a time when he was a mayor, clearly constitute murder. It should be unthinkable for any functioning judicial system not to launch investigative and judicial proceedings when someone has openly admitted being a killer.”
Zeid said Duterte’s calls for police, military and the public to engage in a ‘war on drugs’, bringing people in ‘dead or alive’, has fostered an environment of alarming impunity and violence.
Since assuming the presidency on June 30, Zeid said reports suggest a total of over 6,100 people have been killed either by police, or by vigilantes and mercenaries, apparently acting in response to the war on drugs.
In his public comments last week, he said Duterte promised “for as long as there are drug lords, this campaign will go on until the last day of my term and until all of them are killed.”
“Despite police investigating thousands of the deaths perpetrated by vigilantes, there is surprisingly little information on actual prosecutions,” said Zeid.
“Children as young as five years old have been the innocent victims of this appalling epidemic of extra-judicial killings.”
Zeid said that repeated statements indicating that immunity would be provided to police officers who engaged in human rights violations in the line of duty were “a direct violation of all democratic safeguards that have been established to uphold justice and the rule of law.”
“Credible and independent investigations must be urgently re-opened into the killings in Davao, as well as into the shocking number of killings that have occurred across the country since Mr. Duterte became president,” said Zeid.
He stressed that the perpetrators must be brought to justice, sending a strong message that violence, killings and human rights violations will not be tolerated by the State and that no one is above the law.
The High Commissioner also expressed his full support to last Friday’s statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, calling on the Government of the Philippines to lift a series of preconditions it imposed on her planned visit to investigate the alleged extra-judicial killings of suspected drug dealers.
Under the Philippine law, a sitting president is immune from suit so that he could not be distracted from his work. Celerina Monte/DMS