Big majority of Filipinos see 'many' human rights abuses in Duterte's drug war – SWS

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A big majority of Filipinos believe that there are “many” human rights abuses committed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, a recent Social Weather Stations survey found.

The December 2019 survey results released late Sunday, January 12, showed that 33% of Filipinos said that the abuses are “very many” while 42% said “somewhat many” – totaling 76% for “many."

The respondents were asked: “In the course of the administration’s war on illegal drugs, would you say that the number of abuses of human rights, for example the Extrajudicial Killings or EJKs, has been… (Very many, Somewhat many, Only a few, or Very few)?”

At least 24% said there were few – 21% only a few and 3% very few.

According to SWS, the survey was conducted from December 13 to 16, 2019 via face-to-face interviews among 1,200 people equally distributed across 4 geographic areas. The margin of error was ±3% for national and ±6% each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Duterte’s drug war has been heavily criticized for the high number of killings. Data shows that more than 6,000 people have been killed in anti-drug operations by police alone, while human rights groups estimate there may be as many as 27,000 deaths, including victims of vigilante-style killings. (READ: The Impunity Series)

The situation in the Philippines tagged by groups as a “human rights crisis” has been at the center of attention of many international groups, including the United Nations.

The UN Human Rights Council in July 2019 adopted a resolution which, among others, asked UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to write a comprehensive report on the situation in the Philippines and present it to the council. 

The December 2019 SWS survey also found that more than half of Filipinos back this action.

Results show that at least 56% of respondents agreed with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)’s resolution calling for an investigation into the extrajudicial killings related to the drug war. Results also indicated that 20% disagreed while 24% remain undecided.

The figures showed a very strong net agreement of +36.

How the Duterte administration responded: In a statement on Monday, January 13, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo brushed aside the fact a big majority of Filipinos saw many human rights abuses and instead played up the SWS' findings that 73% of Filipinos said the present number of users of illegal drugs has "fallen" since Duterte took office in 2016.

Panelo maintained a false narrative that human rights abuses and drug-related killings in Duterte's landmark anti-illegal drug campaign were a result of victims "fighting back" against police. (A Rappler investigation has found strong indications that the police were outsourcing extrajudicial killings. Several victim testimonies also debunk claims they "fought" against police.)

Panelo said the Duterte administration was "determined to punish to the fullest state agents who abuse their authority," as he welcomed victims and witnesses of human rights abuses to file cases with the government.

"As the President says, as against them, there will be hell to pay. We encourage those who are victims of - or who are witnesses to - these abuses to come forward and file complaints so that justice will be served," he said.

Killings which are being criminally investigated have not shown promising results, with the thousands going unsolved as of 2019.  (READ: Duterte gov't allows 'drug war' deaths to go unsolved)

On January 7, SWS also released survey results which showed that 78% of Filipinos believe the Philippine National Police (PNP) has "ninja cops" or cops who sell drugs they seize in operations.

SWS said that the items on people’s opinion about the war on drugs are non-commissioned and are done on its “own initiative and released as a public service.” – with a report from Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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