Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the Philippines - Human Rights Committee


Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the Philippines - Human Rights Committee

30 November 2022
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)


The Committee welcomes the submission of the fifth periodic report of the Philippines and the information presented therein. It expresses appreciation for the opportunity to renew its constructive dialogue with the State party's high-level delegation on the measures taken during the reporting period to implement the provisions of the Covenant. The Committee is grateful to the State party for its written replies to the list of issues, which were supplemented by the oral responses provided by the delegation, and for the additional information provided to it in writing.

Below we reproduce the sections of the report that concern the death penalty and extrajudicial killings in relation to the punitive drug policies of the Philippines. Access the full text for further analysis and recommendations related to drug policy.

Death Penalty

25. The Committee is concerned that several legislative attempts have been made to reinstate the death penalty in the State party. It is also concerned about the proposed application of the death penalty to offences, including drug-related offences, that do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes” within the meaning of article 6 (2) of the Covenant(art. 6).

26. The Committee recalls its general comment No. 36 (2018) on the right to life, in which it affirmed that States parties that have abolished the death penalty are barred from reintroducing it. The State party should therefore discontinue any attempts to reintroduce the death penalty, in full compliance with its obligations under article 6 of the Covenant and as a State party to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

Extrajudicial Killings

27. Despite the State party’s denials, the Committee is concerned about reports of the extremely high number of extrajudicial killings, in particular in the context of the Government’s anti-illegal drug campaigns, and of the grave human rights violations involved in those killings, with the majority of victims being young men from poor and marginalized communities who provide for their families. It is particularly concerned by the following: (a) reports of high-level officials, including the former president, inciting violence against and the extrajudicial killing of suspected drug offenders; (b) the use of “drug watch lists” of suspected drug offenders, which are based on unsubstantiated information, and non-judicial house visits (“Oplan Tokhang”) made by the authorities on the basis of those lists to persuade suspected offenders to surrender, which often involve threats and intimidation and lead to their seemingly involuntary enrolment into treatment programmes; (c) the killing of children as “collateral damage” during raids targeting their family members and the severe impact on the children of victims and child witnesses of extrajudicial killings; (d) the continued failure of the authorities to promptly, effectively and independently investigate extrajudicial killings and bring the perpetrators to justice; and (e) intimidation, harassment and surveillance of relatives of victims seeking justice. The Committee notes the State party’s refusal to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms and the ongoing investigations by the International Criminal Court into the extrajudicial killings (art. 6).

28. The Committee urges the State party to put an end to the extrajudicial killings of suspected drug offenders and users. In doing so, it should:

  • (a) Take steps to replace an exclusively punitive approach to drug control with an approach that is fully in line with the Covenant;
  • (b) Ensure that high-level officials refrain from inciting violence and extrajudicial killings, especially of suspects of drug use or trade;
  • (c) Abolish the use of “drug watch lists” of individuals suspected of drug use or trade and the practice of “Oplan Tokhang”, including by repealing Command Memorandum Circular No. 16 and Board Regulations No. 3 and 4 of 2016;
  • (d) Redouble its efforts to promptly, independently and thoroughly investigate all allegations of extrajudicial killings and to bring perpetrators, including law enforcement officials, to justice;
  • (e) Strengthen its accountability efforts, including through establishing an adequately resourced independent accountability mechanism for all allegations of extrajudicial killings and collecting and publishing consistent, disaggregated data on such allegations;
  • (f) Provide victims and their relatives with full redress, including compensation and appropriate support services, such as psychological and rehabilitation services and other services tailored to meet the specific needs of children affected by the anti-illegal drug campaign;
  • (g) Refrain from any acts of harassment and intimidation against those who seek justice for victims of extrajudicial killings and ensure their access to justice and redress;
  • (h) Provide law enforcement officials with regular and appropriate training on the use of force, on the basis of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement;
  • (i) Strengthen its cooperation with the international human rights mechanisms and with the ongoing investigations by the International Criminal Court.