WATCH | US lawmakers to probe drug war killings

July 20, 2017 - 11:52 AM
Funeral workers remove the masking tape wrapped around the head and wrists of a man police said was a victim of a drug-related execution. (Reuters file)

MANILA, Philippines — A bipartisan caucus of the US House of Representatives will conduct a hearing into the “human rights consequences of the ‘war on drugs’ currently underway in the Philippines,” which has claimed thousands of lives since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office a year ago.

“Although extrajudicial killings (in the Philippines) have been a major human rights concern for some time, in its ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016,’ the Department of State recognized that such killings increased sharply over the last year,” the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission said.

It cited statistics of the Philippine National Police showing “7,025 drug-related killings were carried out between July 1, 2016, when Duterte assumed office, and January 21, 2017 — an average of 34 per day.”

Various estimates have placed the total since then at upwards of 12,000 and counting.

The Commission also cited Duterte’s campaign promise to kill “drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings … and dump all of [them] into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.”

Testifying at the Thursday hearing are Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson of human rights group iDEFEND, Matthew Wells, senior crisis advisor of Amnesty International, and Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division.

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission said not only will the witnesses “analyze the implementation of the ‘war on drugs’ and its consequences for the human rights situation in the Philippines,” they will also “provide policy recommendations for ensuring accountability for human rights violations and for addressing the problems of drug abuse and trafficking in ways consistent with promoting public health and strengthening rule of law.”

The Commission is co-chaired by Democrat Congressman James Patrick McGovern of Massachusetts and Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren of Illinois.