GENEVA(Reuters) – At least 129 children have been killed in the Philippines’ four-year war on drugs, most by police or allied assailants, but they may only represent a fraction of the toll, activist groups said on Monday.
Minors have been directly targeted, punished as proxies, or victims of mistaken identity or “collateral damage”, they said in a report, “How could they do this to my child?”.
The World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) and the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Centre, a Philippines- based group, urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to launch an independent commission of inquiry into extrajudicial killings and other crimes at its three-week session opening on Tuesday.
The figures, which include seven child murders this year, are “the tip of the iceberg because it is only those cases that we were able to document and verify, there may be many more in the country”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT secretary-general.
“We are calling on the Human Rights Council to give a clear investigative mandate on the ground to collect the evidence and to ensure accountability,” he told a news conference.
A Philippine presidential palace spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spokesman Harry Roque rejected as “rehashed claims” a separate U.N. report this month that found tens of thousands of people may have been killed in the war on drugs amid near impunity.
But the activists’ report said: “Far from being only ‘collateral damage’, as callously stated by President Rodrigo Duterte, these have often been deliberate killings.”
Their investigations found that 38.5% of the documented child killings were carried out by policemen while 61.5% were by unknown assailants, “some of them with direct links to the police”. The youngest victim was a 20-month-old girl.
Perpetrators enjoy impunity, with only one case, involving the killing of 17-year-old Manila student Kian delos Santos, recorded on video in 2017, leading to a conviction, the report said.
Children violating quarantines in the pandemic have been killed, Rose Trajano of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, said.
“We have documented at least 15 extrajudicial killings during the time of COVID and we know that is not all,” she said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Nick Macfie)