MANILA, Philippines – A mission of international parliamentarians and civil society leaders on Monday urged Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's government to stop what it says is the extremely alarming number of drug suspects being killed in the campaign against illegal drugs and the administration's aggressive efforts to silence its critics.
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European parliamentarians in the group warned the Philippines risks losing a preferential trade deal that allows 6,200 of its products to enter the European Union duty free if it fails to immediately stop the killings and political persecution of critics. The General System of Preference (GSP+) deal is under review and an EU report is expected in January.
"If the human rights standards are not upheld, then there may be consequences in the Philippines' inclusion in the special trading instrument of the EU," said German parliamentarian Arne Lietz. He called for an immediate stop to the killings, the release of detained government critics and an investigation into the thousands of drug suspects killed.
The seven delegates from the Progressive Alliance and the Party of European Socialists visited depressed communities in metropolitan Manila most affected by the killings and met with lawmakers and human rights advocates during their two-day visit.
"The killings of persons accused, without evidence or trial, of involvement in the drug trade continue unabated even in recent days," said a statement issued by the mission members from Europe, the United States and Australia. "Yet the Philippine government continues to deny it to the international community."
They expressed equal alarm at the government's alleged aggressive efforts to silence dissent, deploring "trump up charges" and threats against detained Sen. Leila de Lima, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, the Supreme Court chief justice, the Ombudsman and the Catholic Church.
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Swedish parliamentarian Emilia Toyra said the gross human rights violations that mark the campaign appear to be encouraged by Duterte himself in his public speeches.
"The killings have preyed on the most vulnerable: the youth and the poor," she said. "The killings must stop now."
Police statistics show that more than 3,900 suspected drug dealers and users have been killed in police anti-drug operations since Duterte took office last year. Another 2,000 homicide cases are suspected to be drug-related, while nearly 10,000 other homicide cases are under investigation.