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“Gusto ko pong mawala na ang drugs sa aming lugar, pero natatakot po ako na madamay ako sa war on drugs ni President Duterte. Gusto ko pong itigil na ang tokhang. Siguro po mayroon namang hindi marahas na paraan para masulosyunan ang problema sa drugs.” –13 year old child from an informal settler family
(“I want our place free from drugs, but I am afraid to be involved in President Duterte’s war on drugs. I want ‘tokhang’ to stop. Perhaps there are other non-violent solutions to address the drug problem.”)
Save the Children condemns the death of any child in relation to the war against illegal drugs.
As an organization that promotes the rights of children, especially those who are most deprived and marginalized.
Save the Children is alarmed that the anti-illegal drugs campaign (commonly referred to as “tokhang”), intended to make our communities safe, has actually made our communities a more dangerous place for children.
The campaign poses a real threat to children’s lives as children themselves are being killed and placed in the line of fire during the drug operations.
The Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRD) reports that over 50 children have been killed from July 2016 to August 2017, either as targets or as unintended victims of anti-illegal drug operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP) or of summary executions perpetrated by armed vigilantes.
This number excludes 4 other children, including the most recent child victim, Kian delos Santos, who were killed between April and August 2017.
Some were killed because of mistaken identity while the rest were referred by the President as “collateral damage.”
Impact on children
The anti-illegal drugs campaign, which has been estimated to have resulted in a total of 13,000 deaths, also has had a significant impact on children who have been orphaned by the killings.
It also affects those who have been traumatized by witnessing the deaths of relatives and neighbors.
Several studies have shown that exposure to violent acts results in high levels of anxiety, depression, and anger among children.
And in the long term, this causes them to grow numb and indifferent to acts of violence and become perpetrators of violence themselves.
'Not at the expense of children's rights'
In its report to the Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2017, the Philippine Government, citing the President’s 2016 State of the Nation Address, reaffirms its commitment to “promote, protect, fulfill the rights of our citizens – especially the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable, and social justice shall be pursued, even as the rule of law shall prevail at all times.”
It further reported that the Government is implementing “a rights-based campaign to eliminate the drug menace that includes not only law enforcement operations to strengthen the rule of law, but also the rehabilitation and reintegration of surrendering drug users.”
It also commits to addressing abuses by law enforcers in the implementation of its campaign against illegal drugs.
Save the Children acknowledges the need to address the problem of illegal drugs, but not at the expense of children’s rights under the law.
Thus, it urges the Philippine Government to stand true to its commitments to human rights and children’s rights as clearly articulated in its UPR report and take the strongest possible action against killings related to the anti-illegal drugs campaign.
Save the Children calls on the government to:
- Put a stop to the use of violence as a method to address the country’s drug problem and instead uphold the rule of law in handling suspects and in the resolution of cases. Conduct an independent and impartial investigation of the killings especially those that resulted in the deaths of children and put the perpetrators to justice.
- Provide financial, medical and legal assistance, psychosocial support and other social welfare services to children and their families affected by the anti-illegal drugs campaign.
- Approach drug addiction as a public health issue by providing drug users, including adolescents and youth, access to appropriate treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration programs and allocate sufficient resources for the prevention of substance abuse and addiction.
- Adopt and enforce protocols and mechanisms among law enforcers and local government units to ensure that all children are safeguarded during anti-illegal drug operations.
In September 2017, the Philippine Government is expected to make commitments on the implementation of human rights before the Human Rights Council Plenary Session.
Save the Children urges the Government to adopt the following key recommendations put forward by at least 58 Human Rights Council Member States:
- Immediately stop all unlawful killings and incitement to carry out killings in the name of the anti-illegal drugs campaign.
- Ensure that the fight against illegal drugs is undertaken within the framework of human rights and adopt a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary approach in addressing the issue of illegal drugs in the country.
- Take all necessary steps to ensure prompt, impartial and transparent investigations into alleged unlawful killings and other abuses during anti-illegal drug operations.
- Allow access to the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and remove conditions on her proposed visit.
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