Human Rights in the Philippines: Accountability for continuing and past extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and abductions

27 Mar, 2024 | Comunicati Stampa

Side event, UN Human Rights Council, 55th Session, 27 March 2024, Room XXV, 12:00-13:00, Hybrid

Leila de Lima – Former Secretary of Justice, former Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and former Senator of the Philippines
Alison Smith – Legal Counsel and International Justice Director, No Peace Without Justice
Socorro Reyes – Regional Governance Advisor, Centre for Legislative Development, Senior Research Fellow, La Salle Institute of Governance, Manila, Philippines
Samantha David – Project Development Officer, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates

Albert Alejo – Associate Lecturer, Faculty of Social Sciences, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy.

Organised by Franciscans International • Amnesty International • Alza Vita • CIVICUS • Dominicans for Justice and Peace • Fastenaktion • Forum-Asia • Human Rights Watch • iDefend • International Service for Human Rights • No Peace Without Justice • PAHRA • • Task Force Detainees of the Philippines • World Council of Churches • World Organisation Against Torture

The “war on drugs” was started by then-President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. It continues under the current President, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who was elected in June 2022. Monitoring by the University of the Philippines Third World Studies Center shows that drug-related extrajudicial killings were higher in the first year of the Marcos administration than in the final year of the Duterte administration. According to official statistics, between 1 July 2016 and 31 May 2022, 6,252 people were killed by state agents. According to human rights groups, the figure rises to 30,000 when taking into account killings by unidentified gunmen.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted two resolutions in 2019 and 2020 in response to the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines. HRC 45/33 in 2020 on technical cooperation and capacity-building for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines and HRC 51/58 acknowledge the UN Joint Program for Human Rights (UNJP), aimed at pursuing a human rights-based approach to drug control and strengthening accountability mechanisms. The UNJP is ending in 2024. The program has shown disappointing results, with only three perpetrators in extrajudicial killings cases having been convicted as of November 2023. Despite this, the UNJP remains an important platform for civil society engagement with the Government. The Government, however, has not shown any interest in continuing the program as it stands and is pursuing a dilution of the program that would see civil society engagement considerably weakened.

The Government has also consistently refused to cooperate with the investigation being conducted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into possible crimes against humanity committed across the Philippines during the administration of Duterte. The Government has argued that the court no longer has jurisdiction over the Philippines after withdrawing from the ICC in March 2019.

In addition to continued impunity with regard to human rights violations committed during the “drug war”, the Philippines has been seeing rising extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrests, attacks, harassment, threats and intimidation against human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society organisations as part of “red-tagging” practices by the Government aimed at muzzling civic space and shutting down democratic dissent.

Within the framework of the 55th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, it is important to provide updates on the latest developments with regard to the human rights situation in the Philippines and to share the views of civil society in the Philippines and of UN Human Rights Experts.

Our Side Event seeks to provide this opportunity, in particular with the presence of former Senator Ms. Leila de Lima. Leila de Lima has been a staunch critic of Duterte’s anti-human rights policies. As a consequence of her persistent activism and her pursuit of accountability, she spent almost seven years behind bars on fabricated drug trafficking charges with manufactured testimonies being presented against her. In November 2023, Senator de Lima was granted bail on the final charge against her by Marcos’ administration. Senator de Lima will address the gathering, accompanied by the team that has been fighting for her freedom and pushing for justice for crimes committed in the Philippines during the “drug war”.


  • To reflect on the way forward with regard to civic space in the Philippines in the face of continued and mounting assaults on freedom of opinion, expression, association and assembly.
  • To discuss the role that misogyny and gender-based discrimination have played in the vilification and harassment of women HRDs in the Philippines, through the prism of the very public case of Senator de Lima.
  • To share efforts of human rights organizations to support EJK widows and orphans of the horrific “Drug War” policy in the Philippines in rebuilding their lives.
  • To reflect on the failures and achievements of the UN Joint Program in light of regressive Government proposals for the next iteration and to reiterate calls for an evaluation of the program by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

– For further information, please contact Nicola Giovannini at