DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A human rights group on Tuesday is calling for justice and accountability for the children who fell victims to the continuing drug war by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In its latest dispatch dated May 15, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the ongoing war on drugs as “hyper-violent climate” and that campaigns to protect the children must emphasize justice and accountability.
The dispatch was issued in time for the formulation of the Philippine Plan of Action to End Violence against Children.
The plan was framed by the government’s Council for the Welfare of Children and UNICEF, the United Nation’s children’s organization.
HRW said the plan harmonizes the roles of various agencies to enforce child protection measures and seeks to break the cycle of violence by ensuring access to services, building the capacity of children to protect themselves, improving legislation, and serving as a guide for policymakers and donors.
The group, in its dispatch, quoted Julia Rees of UNICEF Philippines saying “it is concerning that violence pervades on children, committed by people they trust.”
Rees was referring to the findings of a study commissioned by the agency that showed most incidents of violence against children occur at home, in schools, and in their own communities.
But the action plan is set to face its biggest challenge, and that is the Duterte government itself, the HRW admitted.
“It’s murderous ‘war on drugs’ has brought untold misery to the families of mostly poor urban dwellers,” the group asserted.
HRW added that more than 12,000 people have already perished since the Duterte government started the campaign two years ago.
A senator, whom the dispatch did not name, made an estimate of more than 20,000 individuals killed since the anti-drug campaign was launched in the country.
“Children have been among those killed by the police and police-backed vigilantes. Many have been targeted, while others have been bystanders in police shootings, what some government officials call ‘collateral damage’,” the HRW said.
Amidst the continued killings, the group said the International Criminal Court has already begun its preliminary examination on the killings and other forms of abuses connected with the war on drugs.
“The UN should launch its own independent inquiry. Tackling violence by relatives and acquaintances against children is difficult enough – violence by state officials should not be part of the problem,” the HRW said.
The plan will also look into cases of violence at home that affect children and those who are involved in child labor, especially those in hazardous industries such as small-scale mining and the bullying of LGBT children in schools.
“Attacks on schools by paramilitary groups invariably harm children and affect their education and well-being. The government’s call to lower the age of criminal responsibility from the current 15 years to 9 threatens to put more children behind bars, where they face a heightened risk of abuse,” the HRW said. (davaotoday.com)