Human Rights Watch said candidates running in the coming presidential election in May should make human rights “a priority issue.”
During the release of its World Report 2022 on January 13, the international human rights group said the country’s next president “should reverse the rights-abusing policies” of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The past six years of the Duterte administration have been an unmitigated disaster for human rights, namely the murderous ‘drug war,’ harassment of the media, and killing of ‘red-tagged’ activists,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“The next administration should stop the killings, ensure accountability, and support laws that protect basic rights,” he added.
The 752-page World Report 2022, cited the “drug war” killings that reportedly “continued across the Philippines in 2021,” with domestic and international groups pegging the death toll between 12,000 and 30,000 people.
Local authorities claimed that the official figure of 6,200 deaths occurred during police drug raids.
Human Rights Watch, however, said the figure “grossly undercounts the loss of life and disregards police connections to ‘death squads’ and other vigilantes implicated in killings.”
Only one murder, captured on video, resulted in the conviction of police officers, while the vast majority were not even investigated, said the rights group.
In September, the International Criminal Court opened an investigation into killings for the period from July 2016 to March 2019, when the Duterte administration withdrew the Philippines from the ICC’s Rome Statute.
The ICC investigation also covers alleged extrajudicial killings in Davao City from November 2011 to June 2016, when Duterte was the mayor.
The Human Rights Watch report also noted that during the past year, there was an increase in so-called “red tagging,” or the government labeling of people as supporters of communist insurgents.
The organization said the “reg tagging” resulted in violence directed against leftist activists, environmentalists, labor organizers, and human rights defenders.
Journalists and media outlets were also threatened, harassed, and intimidated, often by people linked to the military or police, read the report.
Human Rights Watch said the seven presidential candidates in the coming May elections “should speak out about all aspects of the human rights situation in the Philippines, including the ‘war on drugs.’”
The group said the candidates should also offer steps that need to be taken to end ongoing violations, and provide accountability for past abuses.
“All candidates should also announce their willingness to fully cooperate with the ICC investigation,” Human Rights Watch added.
The 32nd edition of the Human Rights Watch report reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries.