PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal “drug war” has not spared children. Many of them died in the hands of the Philippine police during anti-drug operations. They were either targeted or were simply caught in the cross-fire as police officers raided homes and communities. Most of these killings have not been investigated by the authorities.
The court’s verdict today finding three police officers guilty in the August 2017 murder of 17-year-old Kian de los Santos is particularly important because it is the first conviction of state agents implicated in a “drug war” killing. This is a triumph of justice and accountability and a warning to members of the Philippine National Police to respect due process and the rights of civilians as they do their job.
But at the same time that we are heartened by this, we are also wary because Duterte has promised to pardon police officers convicted in the “drug war” killings. There is reason to suspect that he will keep that promise. This is why it remains important that the government create an independent commission to investigate these killings. The police said that it has killed 5,000 during its anti-drug operations – that’s a lot of deaths that need to be thoroughly and independently investigated. This also underscores the need for the International Criminal Court to take further action on the complaints against Duterte.
Asia Director, Human Rights Watch