United Nations rights commissioner 'gravely concerned' over PH killings

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte

The recent killing of a schoolboy who was dragged into an alley and shot in the head by plains-clothed policeman on 16 August was described by the Minister of Justice as "an isolated case", Zeid said in his opening statement at the 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

"[Duterte's government] have wrongly perceived our role as combative rather than a collaborative effort to bolster Philippine democracy by ensuring that all public officials are honest in the performance of their duties and adhere to universally accepted principles of human rights", it said.

House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said in a television interview the budget cut was necessary because the agency was "useless" and defended criminals.

The commission was last year awarded nearly (749 million pesos) $15 million for its annual budget, and had initially requested for a budget of 1.72 billion pesos ($34 million) this year. The budget requires another vote, then Senate approval before it becomes final.

The commission is investigating the war on drugs that began when President Duterte took office.

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that if the budget cuts go through it "would deal a blow against accountability for human rights violations in the Philippines".

The war on drugs has left thousands of people dead and critics say the budget drop is being proposed because the commission has criticized it.

On the second reading of the legislation, Congress approved that the figure be slashed to just 1,000 pesos, a huge cut from the 2017 budget of 749 million (US$14,713,685).

Filipinos, however, are largely supportive of the crackdown as a solution to tackling rampant crime, which Duterte says stems from drug addiction. The police reject that and say they kill only in self-defence.

On the issue on bombing indigenous schools, Abella said it would be better to focus on the Duterte administration's efforts for their education, claiming their program will receive P130.43 million to support nearly three million indigenous students.

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He added: "On pretext, asking me to resign would lead to essentially making the institution forever at the mercy of politics". "You can condemn, but that is not the function of the CHR", he added.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard called the move "reprehensible and unconscionable".

Police records show more than 3,800 people have died in police operations since July a year ago, and more than 2100 other reported murders are linked to drugs.

Representative Rodante Marcoleta said the commission should also be investigating rights abuses committed by communist rebels and Islamist militants.

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