Duterte hits back at human rights report: “They have no humanity, goddamn it!”

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A suspect shot in Calbocan, Manila, on September 9. Picture by Carlo Gabuco for Human Rights Watch

President Duterte responded to a human rights watchdog’s hard-hitting investigation into extra-judicial killings, by declaring that criminals have no humanity.

“When you kill criminals, it is not a crime against humanity. The criminals have no humanity, goddamn it,” the president said.

He was responding to a report compiled by New York-based Human Rights Watch called ‘License to Kill’, which documented 24 cases in which 32 people had been killed.

It found that in every case police reports were clearly at odds with accounts from other witnesses, who often described the killings as “cold blooded murders” rather than “shoot-outs” as police reports routinely claimed.

Other killings, which police say were committed by unknown vigilantes, were often found to occur shortly after the victims had been released from police custody. In other cases, it was noted that the police and these “unknown vigilantes” were seen to be acting in tandem.

The report also detailed how police would routinely falsify evidence, planting drugs and guns on the bodies of victims.

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The family of five-year-old Danica Mae Garcia, who was shot by unidentified gunmen who were targeting her grandfather Maximo Garcia. The attack in Dagupan City occurred while the family were sitting down to eat lunch, just three days after Mr Garcia had registered with police as a drug user. August 31. Picture by Carlo Gabuco for Human Rights Watch

It concluded that the president’s leading role in the war on drugs could see him liable for trail at the international criminal court.

“Our investigations into the Philippine ‘drug war’ found that police routinely kill drug suspects in cold blood and then cover up their crime by planting drugs and guns at the scene,” said Peter Bouckaert, the author of the report. “President Duterte’s role in these killings makes him ultimately responsible for the deaths of thousands.

“Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ could more aptly be described as crimes against humanity targeting the urban poor. Whether local outrage, global pressure, or an international inquiry brings these killings to an end, someday they will stop and those responsible will be brought to justice.”

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Could President Duterte one day find himself answering for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court?

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella described the detailed report as “hearsay” and not supported by evidence.

“All these accusations of circumventing police procedures should be proven in a competent court and if found meritorious should result in appropriate sanctions against the perpetrators. Failing these, such claims are mere hearsay.”

A statement issued by Mr Abella addressed only a few of the allegations, such as the planting of evidence and firearms, and did not mention the bulk of the report’s findings.

Police spokesman Dionardo Carlos said the 24 incidents investigated in the report were were not enough to conclude that widespread abuses took place.

He also said that the police’s Internal Affairs Service had handled 2,000 complaints and found violations in only 28 cases. “If there is evidence that would point to the violations of these police officers, file cases against them,” he said.

“We will not allow these officers to commit wrongdoings.”

The report said that although there was no evidence showing the president or top officials ordered specific extrajudicial killings, they could nonetheless be implicated through incitement to violence, instigating murder and crimes against humanity.

“His public comments in response to those allegations are evidence he knows about them,” it concluded.