US organization: Philippines a 'war zone in disguise'

SunStar File

A NON-governmental organization (NGO) based in the United States has branded the Philippines a "war zone in disguise."

According to a 2018 report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (Acled), the Philippines was one of the five "deadliest" countries for civilians, citing the killings of over 1,000 people last year because of the "lethality of President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on illegal drugs."

Acled noted that in 2018, the number of civilians killed in the Philippines was more than those killed in conflict-stricken nations like Iraq, Somalia, or the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The Philippines is a war zone in disguise. More civilians were killed in the Philippines in 2018 that in Iraq, Somalia, or the Democratic Republic of Congo -- highlighting the lethality of President Rodrigo Duterte's 'war on drug'-cum-state terror campaign," the report read.

The report noted that civilians in the Philippines, especially those "alleged to be drug users of dealers," are at risk of being attacked by the "armed groups" and the "government" headed by Duterte as "a matter of policy."

The Philippines, along with Syria, Nigeria, Yemen, and Afghanistan, was fourth in the roster of five nations with the highest number of events with "civilian targeting." Some 933 cases of "civilian targeting" were recorded in Manila last year.

Acled also found that the Philippines was the least among the five countries with the highest number of reported fatalities from events targeting civilians. Civilians reportedly killed in Manila were at 1,089.

It noted that the civilian fatalities in the Philippines stemmed from "direct" civilian targeting, "largely due to the government's war on drugs."

"Civilian targeting does not always result in civilian fatalities being reported, and the countries with the highest rates of civilian targeting do not necessarily have the highest numbers of reported civilian fatalities," it stressed.

The report added that the Philippines was among the top five countries where civilians were "most at risk of government repression" in 2018.

As the Duterte's drug war "continues unchecked as the world stands by," the Philippines became "one of the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian" even though it was not facing a "conventional war."

"Philippine President Duterte's war on drugs, which began in earnest in 2016, was rife with state-sponsored killings and corruption," Acled stressed. "Duterte's drug war results in the majority of attacks on civilians in the Philippines."

Acled is an NGO that collects and analyzes data on political violence and protest across Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America.

On Friday, January 18, Malacañang said the report was "remarkable in ignorance and bias."

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement that Acled's report against the Philippines was just a "pure hogwash" and founded with "infinitely fallacious finding."

"We have repeatedly debunked the charge that the administration’s war against drugs is state-sponsored. The anti-illegal drug campaign is governed by strict police protocols that subject the police officers to accountability given the President’s zero tolerance for errant law enforcers," the Palace official said.

"Not having presented any proof that it has conducted factual investigation in the country as to the conditions obtaining, it is reasonable to believe that its conclusions is based on allegations made by groups that are hopelessly and blindly critical of the Duterte administration," he said.

Panelo said the Acled may have based its report on the claims of human rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as "partisan" media outfits like Rappler, Philippine Daily Inquirer, New York Times, and Reuters.

The Palace official stressed that impunity "has no place under the current administration as exemplified by the conviction of Caloocan City policemen involved in the killing of a minor, Kian de los Santos, with no less than the President denouncing the killers and ordering them placed behind bars."

He, nevertheless, admitted that the Philippines is a "dangerous" country for people involved in illegal drugs.

"Make no mistake about it, the Philippines is a dangerous country to drug manufacturers, dealers, addicts, criminals, terrorists, scoundrels, corrupt and abusive persons in authority," Panelo said.

"To Acled we say, as we have repeatedly conveyed to other foreign human rights organizations, we do not need lectures from inexpert foreign groups on how to run a nation," he added. (SunStar Philippines)


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