Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has become notorious for his proclaimed ‘war on drugs’ since his election three years ago. The government has admitted to killing more than 6,600 people since the drug war began, but due to the government’s failure to disclose official documentation, the estimates have now surpassed 20,000 deaths.
In June, Myca Ulpina was the recent victim of an anti-drug operation in the country’s Rizal Province, near the capital Manila. While it has been claimed that Myca was used as a human shield by her father during the raid, her mother has refuted the claims, stating that the police broke in without an arrest warrant, which frightened the family and forced them to flee, leaving Myca to stay at her father’s side.
In response to the young girl’s murder, Senator Ronald Rosa, who once lead anti-drug crackdowns, stated that it is not the intent of the police to kill children as many of them are parents themselves, but that consequently, they are collateral damage in the wider war on drugs.
Duterte’s drug war has systematically devastated the lives of children whose family members and parents are killed, leaving many to live in the streets as there is no one to care for them. The majority of victims are from impoverished communities in urban areas like Manila.
In a report by Amnesty International from 2017, the organisation found that the Philippines’ National Police have been responsible for the deaths of dozens of children, all of which Duterte has dismissed as the same sort of “collateral damage” mentioned by Rosa.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has been encouraged by activists and non-governmental organisations to adopt a resolution allowing the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights to report the ‘drug war’ as a human rights crisis. The suffering of children at the hands of the Philippine government should not only be recognized as a human rights violation but internationally condemned.
The European Union has remained opposed to Duterte’s conduct during anti-drug campaign. In April 2018m the European Parliament passed and adopted a resolution by a large majority calling for the Philippines to end extrajudicial killings while carrying out its ‘drug war’.
The Parliament noted the roughly12,000 people had been unlawfully killed as a result of ‘the campaign and has “expressed grave concern” regarding the National Police “falsifying evidence to justify extrajudicial killings”.
Duterte’s anti-drug campaign has refocused in recent years on the criminal liability of children, with Duterte, himself, pushing for the legal age of liability to be lowered from 15 to 12 years of age.
While tensions between the government and the Filipino people continue to rise, the world must not sit idly by while its most vulnerable citizens are victimised. It is time for the leaders of the European Union and global heads of state to reconsider their relationship and support for a programme that is turning innocent bystanders into victims.