Transcript, "Human Rights Challenge, Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War," March 16 2017, UN in Vienna

Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Executions in the Drug War side event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, March 16, 2017

TRANSCRIPT

Written statement from US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR):

What's been happening in the Philippines is horrifying. Instead of escalating this violence through chilling episodes like those on display in the Philippines, we need a just and compassionate approach to drug policy that focuses on public health and harm reduction.

The international community must prioritize these changes. Our goal should ge to put an end to mindless military action and hard-edged policies that have been proven to fail, and replace them with more effective regulation and treatment.

David Borden: Let's start.

Amnesty International video, "If you are poor you are killed: Extrajudicial executions in the Philippines 'war on drugs'"

My campaign against drugs will not stop until the last pusher, and the last drug lord are... [video of Pres. Duterte making throat cutting sound and gesture]

Video continues in Filipino language with English subtitles:

"They said, 'This is a raid, no one moves.' Then there were six gunshots."

Analyn's house was raided in August 2016. Police say it was an anti-drugs operation. Her husband and four friends were killed. She says he was unarmed and never involved in drugs. He's one of many.

Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte [d]eclared his "war on drugs" 6,200 people have been killed. We've documented 33 cases. Most appear to be extrajudicial executions.

Our report reveals allegations of payment to police for encounters with alleged drug offenders and claims of links between assassins and the police.

Almost all of those targeted are poor.

"Why is it that the rich are jailed and used as witnesses? But the poor, why do they kill the poor?"

Our investigation also includes claims that police ran a racket with funeral homes to cheat families and that some officers steal when working crime scenes.

Despite complaints, there've been no proper investigations[, a]nd many victims' families are too scared to protest. No police officer has been charged, let alone convicted[,] and President Duterte has promised to protect them.

"His first slogan was good. I was in favour of it: 'Change'" Everyone wants change[,] but no Filipino wants dead bodies all over the streets and for the police killing people to become the norm."

Vice President Robredo's video:

David Borden, Executive Director of the DRCNet Foundation; Marco Perduca, former member of the Italian Senate; Chito Gascon, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights; Alison Smith, Legal Counsel and Director of International Criminal Justice Programs, No Peace Without Justice; all the other sponsors of this event, ladies and gentlemen, a good day to all of you.

We are heartened that the issue of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines today is being discussed in an event such as this. To know that the international community's eyes are on us, and to feel that human rights advocates are watching over our country gives us comfort, courage, and hope.

It is already February 2017, and the body count to the drug-related killings keeps growing. We are now looking at some very grim statistics. Since July last year, more than 7,000 people have been killed in summary executions.

We agree that our people deserve nothing less than a safe environment, so that anyone can walk the streets safely whether in daylight or at nighttime. But drug abuse should not be treated as one that can be solved with bullets alone. It must be regarded as it truly is: a complex public health issue, linked intimately with poverty and social inequality.

As it is, in some areas in Manila where poverty is rampant, residents tell us that communities are rounded up in places like basketball courts, women separated from men, those with tattoos asked to stand in a corner, their belongings searched. People are told that they didn't have any right to demand for search warrants, because they were squatters, and did not own the properties on which their houses were built. They told us of the Palit Ulo scheme, which literally means exchange heads, where the wife or husband or relative of a person in a so-called drug list will be taken if the person himself could not be found.

Some of those have told us when there's crime, they normally go to the police. Now they don't know where to turn to. Our people feel both hopeless and helpless, a state of mind that we must all take seriously. This is why the Office of the Vice President supports the rehabilitation of drug dependence. You cannot kill addicts and declare the problem solved. The solution is to design the proper health, education and psychosocial interventions to prevent further drug use, and help them transition into productive members of society. Another challenge is to drum up legal and psychological support for those who may have undergone trauma due to extrajudicial killings.

We believe that when the public knows its rights under the Philippine Constitution, when the community is united in this knowledge, our people will be better protected. We must tread carefully on this, however, because in some cases reported to us, those who ask for a search warrant, for instance, have been beaten and physically abused for doing so.

We must all demand greater transparency in the government's war on drugs, because this is a major, publicly-funded campaign. Our leaders must be honest about the basis of the drug war. What exactly is the scope of the drug problem? Why do numbers about the extent of the problem change, as officially reported to the nation by our president, inconsistent?

We believe that any campaign against illegal drugs must be founded on integrity. The public must ask why no one is being held accountable. The public must be watchful. Around 500 complaints have been filed at the Commission of Human Rights, and recommended to the Department of Justice for filing of cases. But until now, seven months into the administration's drug war, no information has been filed.

On top of this, there is a brewing problem. Death penalty might soon return, and the age of criminal liability might be dropped down to nine. We believe this to be a huge mistake, because death penalty for nonviolent offenses violate UN treaties and international human rights norms.

Last Friday, a day before the EDSA People Power Revolution's 31st anniversary, we called the president to task on this. On behalf of the Filipino people, whose daily struggles are escalating, we asked him to focus on the war that truly matters, the war against poverty, instead of just the war against drugs.

In a public statement, we asked him to direct the nation towards respect for rule of law, instead of a blatant disregard for it. We asked him to uphold basic human rights enshrined in our Constitution, instead of encouraging its abuse. We asked him to be the leader he promised to be, and evoke in our people hope and inspiration instead of fear. We told him, do not allow the lies to distort the truth. We also asked the Filipino people to defy brazen incursions of their rights.

Our people have fought long for our rights and freedoms. The Filipino nation has come far since our country's darkest days. We are not about to back down now.

Thank you all for listening, may you have a fruitful discussion moving forward. The Office of the Vice President is looking forward to deepening this conversation further with you.

David Borden:

So, thank you all for joining us today. I'm not sure if it was clear or not, the video we opened with was published recently by Amnesty International. I appreciate their providing that for us today. I'd like to thank all of our cosponsors, especially the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), which made so much possible.

Today, we will hear from Lousewies van der Laan, former leader of the Dutch D66 Liberal Party. We'll hear from Alison Smith, Lead Counsel and Director of International criminal justice programs with No Peace Without Justice; and Chito Gascon, the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Republic of the Philippines. I'm pleased that we've also been joined by some members of the Philippines Mission, and we'll hear from them later as well. And my co-moderator, long-time friend, Marco Perduca, former senator from Italy.

So, one lens through which I think we can view the Duterte administration is as a manifestation of the global rise in populist and authoritarian or authoritarian-leaning leaders. We've seen these currents of tension between different kinds of people. We've seen in some places, in my opinion in my own country, demonization and demagoguery. We've had debate on legitimate economic questions. All of these have challenged the standing global order of institutions and responsibilities and rights.

In this context, it is essential that the Duterte administration's approach to drug policy not become a model for other leaders. And so we applaud Vice President Robredo for speaking out, and the work of human rights leaders like Chair Gascon, and others doing so much, what they can in the Philippines, and the risks they are taking.

Now our first speaker has joined us remotely. She'll only be with us for the first part of this session due to a conflict, but this is Lousewies van der Laan. Lousewies?

Lousewies van der Laan: Thanks very much. Good afternoon, everyone. Can you hear me from this Skype connection?

Marco Perduca: Yes.

van der Laan:

Oh good, okay. I'm really sorry that I was not able to attend in person. But I'm a member of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and we're having our community forum in Copenhagen. That means also that I will have to drop after my contribution. But one of the things we do is to keep the internet going, which is why I'm able to join you online, and why we can make these wonderful connections.

I really want to say congratulations to all the sponsoring organizations for putting this very important topic on the agenda. The impression that many of us around the world are getting is that the so-called war on drugs in the Philippines is descending into extrajudicial killings that will cost innocent lives, and will do very little, in fact, to stop the drugs trade. And it's very, very important that this was able to be put on the agenda in this way.

I used to be spokeswoman on justice in the Dutch and the European parliament, and I agree wholeheartedly with Vice President Robredo that drugs abuse is a very complex social and health issue that cannot be solved with police brutality. Police have a role, but only within the limits of the law.

Now, I feel very connected to the issue in general, but for the Philippines in particular, because I had a very inspiring visit to the Philippines in March of 2011. It was my only visit, and at the time I was serving as the Chief of Staff of the President of the International Criminal Court. And my president, President Song, was meeting with the then-president Benigno Aquino to try to persuade him to ratify the Treaty of Rome.

In order to prepare for the meeting, we met with civil society, which is extremely strong and vibrant in the Philippines. We met with academia, with human rights organizations. And they had been fighting tirelessly to keep the Philippines a very strong democracy, guided by the rule of law and the protection of human rights. And they were actually so effective that, by the time we got to the meeting with the President, he immediately confirmed that he had already sent the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

And what I found very interesting was his motivation for the Philippines ratifying the country. He explained that there are so many Filipinos who are working and living abroad, in other countries outside of the Philippines, that it is in the national interest to create a world which is guided by the rule of law. And that by ratifying the treaty, the Philippines was actually setting a standard also for the rest of the world to protect their nationals, no matter where they might be.

I found that extremely inspiring – that, as well as the very active civil society. The many very motivated politicians we met – most of them actually were women, which I also found extremely inspiring. And I very much look forward to working together with everyone to try to support those in the Philippines that want to ensure that everyone is equal before the law, and that human rights apply to all.

So I wish you all a very productive visit. I will try to stay online as long as I can to listen. But for the rest, I'm sure I will be debriefed afterwards. And I wish everyone good luck for the session. Thank you.

Borden: Now, since Ms. van der Laan will have to leave soon, are there any very brief questions for her before we move on to our next item?

Okay. So, next, we have a video from the CALD chairman, Thailand former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Abhisit Vejjajiva's video:

Sawasdee Krab. Greetings from Bangkok. On behalf of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, an organization which is a network of political parties of liberal and democratic leaning in the region, who is cosponsoring this event, it is a great pleasure for me to address this session.

I recognize that the topic being discussed, the war on drugs – we have two representatives from the Philippines who will also be addressing this meeting. I hope that the Philippine Chair of the Human Rights Commission, Chito Gascon, will be able to give you a very good overall picture. As well as the statement made by the vice president of the Philippines, Vice President Robredo – who will also continue in her opposition, vocal opposition, to the war on drugs – will be able to tell you about the challenges that the country is going through.

The fact of the matter is this war on drugs in the Philippines has already claimed 7,000 lives, many of whom could be innocent people unrelated to the drugs trade. It is a clear violation of human rights, a challenge for liberal and democratic institutions – not just in the country, but also will have profound impact in the region.

I say this because we already see some leaders, notably in Cambodia, who are now contemplating carrying a similar exercise. And just over 10 years ago, in my own country, in Thailand, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, also engaged in a war on drugs, which claimed the lives of 2,000-3,000 Thais.

What we need to understand is the need to get to grips with the reality of the political impact of the war on drugs, so that we can come up with the appropriate and adequate response, and recognize what our agenda must be.

The hard fact of the matter is, in cases where the war on drugs is being carried out, it is a very popular campaign. That's why these leaders, populist leaders, decide to carry out such a policy. And to be able to get to grips with the issue, we need to recognize that its popularity stems from the frustration of people who feel that the drugs problem simply is not being addressed in an adequate manner.

So for us, the hard truth is, what is popular is not always right, and what is right often carries political cost. What we have to decide is, what to do under such circumstances. I think, for all of us, we feel that we have to stand up for the right principles. Whatever the political cost, we still have to fight against any violation of human rights. And we have to recognize that the war on drugs, apart from often claiming innocent lives, also leads to other sorts of problems – corruption, political persecution – which very much go to undermine the democratic system itself.

So our response, first of all, as part of the international community, is to keep up pressure, and to say that this is not right, that this has to be stopped. But at the same time, our campaign, our message, can only get traction, if it is eventually accepted by the people in the countries where the war on drugs is being carried out. And here, we have to do two things.

First, point out that the war on drugs itself never achieves its objective. In Thailand, it certainly didn't solve our drugs problem. That problem remains with us. And one of the most powerful opinion pieces that I've read recently was from a former president of Columbia. He has clearly spelled out that during his war on drugs, a new set of problems were created, whether it's driving a lot of the drugs trade underground, making drugs more expensive, preventing drug users from rehabilitation, greater corruption in the police force and state officials – all of which eventually meant that the war on drugs itself never achieves the purpose it is set out to achieve.

And more importantly, it's not enough for us to criticize or fight against the war on drugs. We, who believe in human rights, in liberal democracy, must also put forward a credible alternative as to how we would be able to end the drugs problem. Unless we do that, we will not have the credibility, or the hearts and minds of the people whose support we need to eventually stop the drugs war.

So I hope your session on this particular topic will be able to address these issues, and allow us to continue the fight against such violations of human rights on a grand scale. Thank you very much for your attention, and we will, in Asia, as liberals and democrats, continue to support the good work you do in our fight against the war on drugs, and also in solving the drugs problem for the people of the world. Thank you.

Perduca: Thank you for your attention. We promise this is the last video, so we go back to real human beings in the room. And it's a pleasure for me to introduce Alison Smith, who for many have been coordinating the activities on international criminal law for No Peace Without Justice, an organization that I had the pleasure to coordinate within the UN system 20 years ago, and she will speak about the implication of international criminal law, and what we have been hearing since 1:00pm today. You have the floor.

Smith:

Thank you very much, Marco. And thank you to the organizers of this event, David in particular, and thank you to all of you for being here. As Marco mentioned, what I wanted to talk about was an international criminal law framework of what's been happening in the Philippines. At No Peace Without Justice, we've been researching this for the past several months, looking at what's been happening on the basis of open source information, so media reports and things like that.

And the reason we wanted to look at this within an international legal framework is because if certain crimes are committed, this triggers certain obligations on the part of the state. Now as was mentioned, the Philippines has ratified the Rome Statute from the International Criminal Court. And so the Rome Statute's substantive law, substantive international criminal law, is the framework that we've been using to look at what's been happening. Because that's the applicable law in the Philippines at the relevant times.

So the Rome Statute covers war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. In terms of war crimes, there's no armed conflict, so there are no war crimes. There's been – we can't see any specific intent to destroy a protected group, in whole or in part, so there's no genocide. So we've been focusing on crimes against humanity.

The definition of crimes against humanity is any one of a number of prohibited acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population as part of a state or organizational policy to carry out that attack. So I'm going to go through these in a little bit more detail, also so we can fit in what we've been hearing, and what we will hear from Chair Gascon, about the facts on the ground within this legal framework.

Starting with the prohibited acts, the first act that's prohibited in crimes against humanity is the act of murder. And what this means is basically a killing that is not justified by law. And from what we've seen from the videos, and what we've seen happening in the Philippines, there are many, many killings that are taking place that do not appear to be justified by law. So we have the prohibited acts taking place in the Philippines.

In terms of the context, as I mentioned, the context is that the act takes place as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population as pursuant to a state or organizational policy to commit the attack. And I'm just going to focus on two of those elements, but I'm happy to answer questions on the other elements as well, if anybody wishes to ask.

The first element I wanted to highlight is the question of the attack. When international criminal law is talking about an attack as part of crimes against humanity, it doesn't mean a military attack, necessarily. What it's referring to is the – forgive the technical language here – the commission of multiple acts that are prohibited within the context of crimes against humanity. So we can see there is an attack in the Philippines that's constituted by this very large number of extrajudicial killings that has been taking place since May 2016.

The second element I wanted to focus on was the question of a state or organizational policy or plan. One thing I would say, this is not part of customary international law, but it is part of the Rome Statute system, so it is an element that would need to be satisfied in the case of the Philippines. And the purpose of this is to distinguish random attacks from the widespread or systematic attacks required for crimes against humanity.

The thing that I wanted to mention about this is that there's no need under international law for there to be a formal plan, a written plan, or a written policy. And that a policy or plan can be inferred from the circumstances – so by the systematic nature of what's happening, or by promises that perpetrators will be protected and will be shielded from the law – and all of these things can point to the existence of a plan or policy. And our conclusions based on the research that we've done, is that there is a state policy either to carry out the attack, or at least to look the other way and to allow these attacks to take place.

So based on our research, our conclusions are that there have been crimes against humanity being committed in the Philippines since May 2016, and this triggers certain obligations. And the obligation that it triggers is on the Philippine authorities to investigate and, where appropriate, to prosecute people who are perpetrating these crimes against humanity. As David mentioned, we recognize the presence of the Philippines here, and we look forward to your thoughts and your input on that.

So, our recommendations, of course, are first that these killings should stop, and second that the Philippines should investigate and prosecute the crimes that have been committed, and so to contribute to accountability, and contribute to a Philippines based on human rights and the rule of law. Thank you.

Perduca: Thank you Alison. Now, Chito Gascon, the Chair of the National Commission on Human Rights.

Chito Gascon:

Thank you, Marco. And at the onset, I want to thank DRCNet Foundation and the other sponsors of this meeting for organizing this. I'm also grateful to all of you for coming. We appreciate your interest in what's happening in our country. I'm very conscious about time, so I will be direct to the point.

The president of the country himself declared this as a war on drugs, and as a result of this war, the number of deaths related to this prosecution of drugs and drug traffickers and drug addicts is an unprecedented number of killings in terms of pace and scale. Over eight months now, close to 8,000 have been killed. A third of that have been killed by the admission of the police themselves, in what they ostensibly refer to as lawful police operations. The local term they use is "nanlaban," or "they fought back," and so they got killed. So the self-defense argument is raised. And two thirds of those who have been killed, and the term used by the government itself is DUI – not driving under influence, but deaths under investigation. Ostensibly committed by unknown assailants, possibly internecine drug gang wars, or possibly death squads or some other assailants.

So that's the number. And I say unprecedented in terms of pace and scale because we have not seen this, not even during the authoritarian period. In fact, we have long passed the number of those killed in this war on drugs compared to those that had been killed in the first year of the authoritarian period. Our friend from Thailand, the prime minister said that their government ten years ago prosecuted the same war on drugs, and close to 3,000 had been killed over an 18-month period. This is 8,000 over eight months. So that is the challenge we have.

Now we welcome the statements made by the Philippine government in the conference here, that they will affirm human rights, that they will have an inclusive and comprehensive approach. But the first step is to declare a halt on the killings.

The next is, as Alison highlighted, the importance of investigating thoroughly, and prosecuting those that have been part of these killings. Unfortunately, unless our friends from the Philippines here, from the government, can clarify, to our knowledge in the Commission on Human Rights, eight months since the start of this war on drugs, not a single police officer has been charged in court. The law on the police established an internal affairs service that is duty-bound by the law to immediately investigate any instance of a discharge of a firearm, and a death resulting from lawful police operations. And yes, the internal affairs service has conducted what they referred to as administrative investigations, but that is essentially dribbling the ball, because eight months after, not a single police officer has been charged in court. Why? Because they essentially take the nanlaban, or self-defense argument as basis for washing their hands.

That is not the case, because a commissioner in the Commission on Human Rights, a colleague of mine, was former undersecretary of the Department of Justice. And she told me the previous policy in the Department of Justice was when there is an admission by a police officer that they had in fact killed someone in the course of a police operation, that person must be brought to court, because the self-defense defense is a matter for the courts to determine in specific cases. But the reality is not a single police officer that has already admitted is being held accountable.

And we are also calling for investigation of the two thirds, because there is no progress there as well. As has been mentioned by two previous speakers, we are a party to the International Criminal Court. I am still a believer in our justice system, but this justice system must be allowed to work. First instance: law enforcement must do a serious investigation. Second instance: they must cooperate with the Commission on Human Rights.

We are currently conducting, of the seven thousand plus killed, about five hundred of our own investigations. And at every stage of our own investigations, we have received non-cooperation from the police. We ask for documents, they ignore the giving of these documents.

And so if the Philippine government is serious about protecting human rights, if the Philippine government is serious at ensuring that it will not fall under the category of one state that is unwilling and unable to prosecute these cases, thereby triggering the possibility of going to the International Criminal Court, we ask them to stop the killings. We ask them to fully investigate. We've reviewed the prosecution and convictions. And ultimately – and there's opportunity in this forum here – they really need to move away from a primarily strongman, law and order approach to this problem, to a more comprehensive harm reduction approach. And we hope that this dialogue in this session as well as elsewhere will help contribute to that purpose.

Thank you very much, good afternoon.

Perduca:

Thank you, Chito. Before I give back the floor to Dave, I want to say that another victim of the war on drugs, also in the Philippines unfortunately, is freedom of speech. We have seen some of the most articulate critics of the President and the policies, being incarcerated with virtually no reason, on false and politically fabricated allegations, in particular Senator De Lima.

Now I'm not saying this because as a former senator I take more into consideration the thoughts of a politician. But still, that is possibly the most egregious case of someone being incarcerated without evidence. I understand there may still be a hearing, and we're looking forward to that. But at the same time we're mobilizing parliaments all over Europe. And we know that also the European Parliament may adopt a resolution soon on this worrying situation.

Dave, the floor is back to you, or we can open it for questions.

David Borden: Okay. Well before we open generally to questions, we will hear from Mr. Sulpicio Confiado – I hope I pronounced that correctly – the Deputy Chief of Mission and Consul General, and Deputy Permanent Representative from the Republic of the Philippines.

Sulpicio Confiado:

Thank you very much, Mr. Borden, Mr. Perduca, distinguished members of the panel, ladies and gentlemen, friends. Thank you very much for giving us the floor to be able to convey a statement by the Philippine government. Let me read through this, very brief and short.

Early on in his campaign, then-candidate Rodrigo Duterte stated that he will deal decisively with the substantial drug menace plaguing our country from north to south and east to west. As a result of that democratic exercise of suffrage, the president was elected by an overwhelming majority of the people.

We were quite disappointed that the firm resolve of the president in addressing the scourge of drugs has been met with skepticism if not outright condemnation. The focus has been solely on alleged human rights violations and so-called extrajudicial killings. The shocking number of seven thousand killed has been bandied about as reflecting the number of EJKs. There is clearly a need for clarification and investigation of these numbers, and based on the data from the Philippine drug enforcement agencies.

These ___ statistics, while in part coming from data on casualties from legitimate police operations against drug criminals, arise from killings carried out by vigilante elements or purges by syndicates themselves. These killings are being investigated as murders. It should be noted that a good percentage of the killings recorded in the last six months are non-drug related.

The government has an interagency mechanism that has been operational since 2012, headed by the Department of Justice and comprising of other eight different agencies. The interagency mechanism addresses cases of EJKs, which involves targeted killings of persons because of their advocacies to include political, environmental, media practitioners, human rights, et cetera. The government has recognized that a small proportion are suspicious cases, and these are being seriously and thoroughly investigated and prosecuted. We iterate that the Philippine government has never made extrajudicial killings a state policy, and the president himself has taken action targeting police and law enforcement personnel.

The principal campaign against illegal drugs should be viewed in the context of the president's duty under the constitution. This he has been doing, and doing this with fervor and commitment. Notwithstanding criticism from within and without, the majority of Filipinos continue to support the campaign against illegal drugs.

We welcome advice, but decisions will be made on sovereign grounds. Article Two, Section Four of the Philippine Constitution stipulates that the prime duty of the government is to serve and protect the people. Section Five likewise provides that the maintenance of peace and order, protection of life, liberty and property, and promotion of general welfare, enjoyment by all people the blessings of democracy.

Unfairly, the Philippine response to the drug menace has been almost exclusively portrayed within the rubric of enforcement. The truth, however, is that the Philippine government has pursued a balanced and holistic approach to the drug issue in all its facets: prevention, education, enforcement, rehabilitation and reintegration. The five pillars of supply reduction, demand reduction, alternative development, civic awareness and regional international cooperation, inform the Philippines nation against illicit drugs.

We wish to emphasize that the illegal drugs campaign is but a subset of the overall socioeconomic agenda of the administration. The Philippines has employed a whole of government approach, uplifting the dignity of Filipinos, to alleviate poverty and pave the way for safe and secure societies.

Various Philippine governments are working towards this end, and aside from the war on illegal drugs, the government is leading effective implementation of agrarian reform through distribution of lands, improvement of communal irrigation systems, __ far and provision of ___ assistance to farmers and fishermen.

The success of the approach could be gleaned through the substantial 31.7% decrease in crimes from January to December 2016, compared with the same figure the year before. More rehab centers have been and are being built with enthusiastic support of the community, the business sector, and international partners. Various community-based measures, as well as initiatives for our young people including the peer-based strategy against drugs, have been met with considerable success. Regionally, the Philippines as chair and member of ASEAN, has embarked on collaborative efforts with like-minded countries to secure our communities against illegal drugs.

Perhaps the voluntary surrender of 700,000 people is telling. It tells of the magnitude of the problem. It's affected 45 thousand barangays, and affected another three million people. It could be viewed as indication that says that the drugs campaign has voluntary submission means that these victims desire to rid themselves of this habit in the use or __ of drugs.

Ours is a very young population with over 30% below the age of 14. We want safe communities where they can mature to be responsible citizens and to be able to achieve their full potential. A drug-infested community robs our youth of these basic human rights: the right to life, the right to happiness, and the right of a bright tomorrow.

We call on our friends in the international community to appreciate the substantial threat that our country faces. We call on the international community to do their share in raising their voices against legalization of illicit drugs. We call on the international community to see through the various agendas that promotes commercial and mercantilistic interests under the guise of compassion and human rights, while ignoring the solemn duty of a state to protect its __ systems and to nurture its people.

Let me end by quoting from the president's State of the Nation address last July: "My administration shall be sensitive to the state's obligations to promote, protect and fulfill the rights of our citizens, especially the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable. And social justice shall be pursued, even as the rule of law shall at all times prevail. The administration shall implement a humane approach to development and governance, as we improve our people's welfare in the areas of health, education, adequate food and housing, environmental preservation and respect for culture. Human rights must work to uplift human dignity, but human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country."

Thank you very much, Mr. ___.

Perduca: Thank you very much.

Borden: So given the limited time available, I request that comments and questions be kept as concise as possible.

Marco Perduca: Yes.

Daniel Joloy: Thank you very much for that very interesting presentation. My name is Daniel Joloy, from Amnesty International. We are also very deeply concerned about the increasing risks human rights defenders including staff from the Commission on Human Rights are facing in the Philippines, particularly in the context of documenting extrajudicial executions and that – as has been said, might amount to crimes against humanity – and for bringing these cases before justice. So I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the specific challenges that human rights defenders are facing, particularly after the direct threats of President Duterte against human rights defenders. And can you tell us a little bit more about what mechanisms does the Commission have to protect human rights defenders?

Chito Gascon: Should we take a few, and then respond?

Marco Perduca: Yes, if there's any?

Unidentified Speaker: Yeah, I wanted, I know we're here about the Philippines, so I was wondering about what internal institutional resistance is there available for those that are against this policy. It's very interesting to see the Office of the Vice President come out so strongly. What kind of powers does she have, or others in Congress, or other branches of power? What kind of work is being done to resist this?

Marco Perduca: We can take one last, if there is, and then we go to – yes please.

Randy Thompson, Help Not Handcuffs: Thank you so much for putting this together. It's been invaluable to hear your voices and your perspectives. Just personally, as a survivor of police violence, I can't believe what was just said, that in the face of 8,000 people murdered in the streets we have to hear this.

I just want to say that the other people in the room that are seeing what is happening, we've launched a letter calling on the ICC to be involved. I think Alison you say you have a letter. I just encourage you to act on that, to move forward on that. I am really beside myself to sit in this room and listen to the response. I know this individual has a job to do, but I am flabbergasted by that. Thank you again, once more.

Perduca: Thank you. Chito, do you want to start?

Gascon:

Okay, thank you first for your questions and your interventions. By way of responding to them, I will agree with my dear friend, who I haven't seen in decades, S. Confiado, that there is an existential threat in the country. But that existential threat is not really about the safety and security of our young. The existential threat is a direct assault on human rights, rule of law, and democracy in the country.

Marco referred to the undermining of freedom of speech. It actually goes beyond that. Because as he mentioned, those that are opposed to this policy, are calling for a review and assessment of it, are now being subjected to threats, intimidation, harassment, and possible prosecution. A sitting senator who was five years Minister of Justice and two years Chair of the Commission on Human Rights was arrested two weeks ago, on what I view to be essentially trumped up charges. Because the evidence that they are presenting are suspect evidence, statements from convicts inside jail serving long prison terms, now saying after many years that this senator took money from them. That is the nature of what's happening.

So, and of course, the vice president is very courageous, making her statements, she too is subjected to intimidation and attacks, largely from the supporters [of the president]. As our colleagues have said, this war on drugs is popularly supported by the public. It has been embraced by the public, 80% approval rating. He won by 39% of the vote. So he has consolidated power, and support beyond those who have voted for him.

And so, this is going to be a long haul of work. There are institutions that are pushing back. There are the human rights defenders that are doing their work on a daily basis, trying to document this. As I said, it's unprecedented – even us, the Commission on Human Rights, which has staff to investigate, cannot cover 100% of all of these cases. We will try our level best to do so, but to do so, we have to work with journalists, NGOs, human rights defenders. And they have been receiving, right now more verbal threats. There haven't been any direct attacks on any human rights defenders. We have received reports from human rights defenders that state that they are on some form of watch list and surveillance, but that's par for the course. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen, so to speak.

We are trying to improve ways and means to address that problem, early warning mechanisms, provision of sanctuaries and refuge, and so on. And this is actually one big challenge. Because in the past, we do have a witness protection program that was essentially a halfway house program, where people came to us, and we would ultimately refer them to the Dept. of Justice. Unfortunately, now many of those that are seeking witness protection from us are unable or unwilling to be referred to the Dept. of Justice, for obvious reasons. So we are trying to develop new mechanisms. So there is pushback.

As I said, I still have faith in our legal process, but the government has to step up and show more commitment to this beyond statements made in the UN. It must show and manifest itself on the ground. The president put a pause in the killings when he said, when there were charges of corruption involving the killing of a Korean national. And he said he would have this investigated, and he said 40% of the police force are corrupt. Two weeks after, he sends the police to continue this war on drugs, but he has not yet solved the 40% corruption in our police force. That is the problem that we have.

When we have a law enforcement mechanism that is suspect – now I don't want to cast aspersions that they're all corrupt: No. We have good people in the police force. But under the circumstances where their commander-in-chief has said "I will continue this war on drugs" – not considering a more comprehensive and holistic approach – maybe our friends at lower levels are trying their very best to create these interventions, but it's coming from the very top. And the very top is saying – and you heard him say it himself – he wants the killing to continue. And that's why we say this can't be sustained. We need to have a human rights-based approach to the drug problem.

Marco Perduca: Thank you.

David Borden: So we've been asked for one minute to talk about disciplinary acts. I request that it does be limited to one minute, because we're over time, and another organization is waiting to come in.

Earl Saavedra:

Good afternoon. Thank you very much. I'm Earl Saavedra, the Deputy Executive Director of the Dangerous Drugs Board of the Republic of the Philippines.

It was mentioned earlier regarding the legal processes which are being exhausted in terms of how the law enforcers deal with our war on drugs. I would like to provide everyone with these updated data regarding the internal cleansing being initiated by our Philippine National Police, one of the organizations in charge of drug abuse prevention and control.

So from July 1, 2016 to January 29 of 2017, the number of law enforcers who were administratively charged reached 21, criminally charged also reached 21, those killed during law enforcement operations reached 21, deaths under investigation 11, arrested 54, and those who surrendered under the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte reached 43, and those who voluntarily surrendered reached 18.

So these are so far the up-to-date figures which we have, and we may be able to share some of these data to the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, and perhaps we could have a dialogue on this so we could definitely look into the other facts that we may be able to share through your office.

For those who would like to get more information, we're very much willing to share with you whatever available data we have right now. Because as what we have mentioned this is a comprehensive approach in order to address the concern on drug abuse prevention. Thank you.

David Borden: And just three quick notes on your way out. One, I neglected to mention before the group Liberal International also played a key role in helping us put this together. We're grateful for the tangible support from cosponsors, including the Luca Coscioni Association and Drug Policy Alliance, and of course from all the other cosponsors. There are copies of the Amnesty International Report that the video is connected to, on the table outside. And if anyone has not signed in yet and is willing to do so there are some sign in sheets floating around. Thank you all for coming.

– END –

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