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The Philippines: “War on Drugs”- Systemic Human Rights Violations and Extrajudicial Executions

30th June 2016, a day marked in infamy for the people of the Philippines. A day that should have brought so much hope for so many people as Duterte took office. Instead, it marked the beginning of his war on drugs, a bloody campaign that has resulted in the death of at least 20,000 innocent people. Duterte has instigated and incited these killings and at least 2555 have been attributed to the Philippine National Police.

Last November, the DILS committee met the journalist behind the Nightcrawlers Documentary (The Nightcrawlers | National Geographic Documentary Films) and discovered that the UK Government may be complicit in helping Duterte by selling arms. Many human rights groups have expressed their outrage at the role the UK is playing. Even the UK’s International Ambassador for Human Rights has condemned the supply of arms to the Philippines.

DILS has decided to launch a campaign to raise awareness of an issue that needs to be brought to light. As part of this campaign, we contacted our local MP about raising the issue to his colleagues in Parliament. We have also started a petition, calling for the UK to impose sanctions and stop selling arms to the Philippines.

What is the War on Drugs?

The War on Drugs is the Government’s anti-drug policy, which Duterte promised would eradicate the drug problem in the Philippines, within six months. Five years later, it continues with drive by shootings, summary executions, red tagging and falsified crime scenes. The youngest victim was just three years old.

Levels of corruption are endemic, democracy in the Philippines is flawed, there persists a prevailing climate of impunity and activists and dissenters continue to be harassed and killed. At least 39 human rights defenders or activists were killed in the Philippines in 2018 – the third-highest number globally, according to Front Line Defenders.

Although the Philippines has recently withdrawn from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, a body that can give a voice and a face to countless victims, the UN Human Rights Council is investigating the gravity of the situation on the ground.

Is the UK Government complicit?

The bilateral trade relationship between the UK and Philippines is worth approximately $1.8 billion per year.

This relationship includes:

  • UK sold two £28million Wildcat choppers to the Philippines just last year despite the mass human rights violations and despite President Rodrigo Duterte having previously boasted about the fact that suspects have be thrown to their deaths from helicopters throughout the so-called ‘war on drugs’.

  • In 2016/2017, the UK issued 451 licenses for the sale of arms to the Philippines and since 2015, the UK has licensed £92million-worth of arms to the Philippines. These arms have been used on the people of the Philippines; the UK has aided in the murder of 20,000 people, despite the mass human rights violations, despite the mass executions, the UK has continued to supply the Philippines with arms and spyware.

  • UK government Ministers have agreed to arms export licenses to the Philippines, which totalled £88 million in the last three years.

  • The UK government was involved in training the Philippine Armed Forces and information has surfaced that the UK Military led an International Jungle Warfare Instructors Course in the 2019/20 reporting period.

  • The UK International Trade Minister met with President Duterte in April 2017 and offered increased trade between the UK and the Philippines.

  • UK ministers have also approved the sales of electronic surveillance equipment to the Philippine Government although concerns were raised repeatedly at the time.


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