PHILIPPINE police are falsifying evidence to justify unlawful killings in a “war on drugs” that has caused more than 7,000 deaths, according to a new report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The 117-page report called “‘License to Kill’: Philippine Police Killings in Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs,’” claims Philippine National Police repeatedly carried out extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, and then falsely claimed self-defense.
The human rights watchdog also accuses President Rodrigo Duterte and other senior officials of instigating and inciting killings of mostly urban poor in a campaign that “could amount to crimes against humanity”.
Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at HRW and author of the report, said investigations into the drug war found that police “routinely kill” drug suspects unlawfully and then cover up the crime.
“Our investigations into the Philippine ‘drug war’ found that police routinely kill drug suspects in cold blood and then cover up their crime by planting drugs and guns at the scene”
“President Duterte’s role in these killings makes him ultimately responsible for the deaths of thousands,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
As the death toll rises from the bloody war on narcotics, HRW also called on the United Nations to “urgently create an independent, international investigation into the killings to determine responsibility, and ensure mechanisms for accountability.”
HRW also expressed concern that the so-called vigilantes are working in alliance with the Philippine National Police.
“Masked gunmen taking part in killings appeared to be working closely with the police, casting doubt on government claims that the majority of killings have been committed by vigilantes or rival drug gangs. ”
In several instances that HRW investigated, suspects in police custody were later found dead and classified by police as “found bodies” or “deaths under investigation.”
The group said no one has been meaningfully investigated for any of the killings.
The report draws heavily on interviews in the Metro Manila area with 28 family members of victims and witnesses to police killings, as well as journalists and human rights activists. It also references initial police reports of killings, which HRW field research consistently contradicted.
Since his inauguration as president in June last year, Duterte and other senior officials have been outspoken in support of a nationwide campaign to kill drug dealers and users, while denying or downplaying the illegality of police actions, the group said.