MANILA, Philippines — Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday slammed international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) anew “for skewing real numbers” on the deaths associated with the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs and its accusation that the government was mounting an alleged strategy of distraction on the issue.
Cayetano said HRW had been “misleading the international community by making it appear that the Philippines has become the Wild Wild West of Asia where we just kill people left and right.”
On January 20, the DFA slammed the rights group for “intentionally misleading” the international community with its global report citing that 12,000 were killed in the course of the administration’s anti-narcotics campaign.
At the same time, Cayetano also asked what basis the HRW had to support claims that the human rights situation in the Philippines is at its worst since the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Days later, HRW said the DFA chief’s statements were “manifestation of the government’s distraction strategy.”
In a statement released through the DFA-Office of Public Diplomacy on Friday, Cayetano said to make such sweeping accusations without being able to support these claims with facts is not just misrepresentation.
“It is outright deception,” he said.
Cayetano is demanding the New York-based organization to issue an apology.
“It owes the Philippines and the rest of the international community not just an explanation but also an apology for making unfair accusations by skewing the real numbers just so it could advance its own agenda,” he said.
The DFA chief said claims that there were more than 12,000 victims in the campaign against illegal drugs could not be possible since the figures fail to take into consideration the number of homicides and murders that had also been taking place across the country.
“In making such a conclusion, Human Rights Watch is creating the impression that the Philippine Government is engaged in the wholesale slaughter of innocent people. This assertion is false,” he said.
The official cited a Philippine Statistics Authority data that showed during the first five years of the Aquino administration from 2010 to 2015, the Philippines already recorded a total of 79,417 homicides and murders or an average of 13,236 per year.
Statistics from the Philippine National Police (PNP), on the other hand, show a total of 77,468 murders and homicides for the same period or an average of 12,911 per year during the same period.
He added that from the time President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office on July 1, 2016 until November 27, 2017, the PNP recorded a total of 18,491 homicides.
The numbers include 3,968 drug suspects who were killed in 80,683 police operations conducted during this period.
“This means there is one unfortunate death for every 20 presumed law enforcement operations conducted. These operations also resulted in the arrest of 119,023 drug personalities,” he said.
“This means that for every drug personality killed in a police operation, there were 30 others who were taken into custody,” he added.
Cayetano acknowledged nonetheless there is no perfect law enforcement system. But he said that while the government strives to ensure that it respects the rights of everyone, including criminal suspects, “the reality is that illegal drug syndicates are also capable of unleashing violence.”
“In their undue haste to criticize the Philippine Government, Human Rights Watch and other groups conveniently ignored the right of our law enforcement officers to protect themselves,” he said.
Cayetano mentioned that 86 police officers and soldiers had lost their lives and another 226 were wounded when drug personalities chose to fight back instead of giving up.
In what he described as HRW’s “rush to condemn the Philippine Government,” the official lamented it ignored their obligation to ensure that Filipinos are able to live in peace, safety and security.
“It set aside the countless stories of victims of the unspeakable crimes committed by those who sell and use illegal drugs such as the gang rapes and killings by methamphetamine-crazed individuals of children and even their own family members,” he said.
Cayetano said HRW should take a closer look so the group would “discover that majority of Filipinos actually feel much safer now as a result of our government’s efforts to address the problem of illegal drugs.”
He noted there is an 8.44-percent decline in crime volume from January to October 2016 to January to October 2017 and a 20.56 decrease in index crime during the same period.