Int'l groups continue to protest Duterte's drug war

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — International groups continue to lobby against President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody drug war, amid government officials' call for an end to foreign interference.

Human rights group Amnesty International (AI) on Friday said killings have not abated even after the relaunch of the police's supposedly "less bloody" anti-drug campaign or "Oplan Tokhang."

"The recent spate of killings is evidence that this deadly 'war on the poor,' is continuing," the AI said in a statement.

Also read: War vs. poor: Police paid per drug killing - Amnesty International

As of late Thursday, 28 drug suspects were killed in anti-drug police operations, just 10 days after the police resumed its drug war. That means almost three suspects killed daily.

The AI urged the Philippine government to allow the United Nations (UN) to investigate alleged human rights violations in the country's drug war, and grant the international body access without preconditions.

Duterte earlier said he wants a public debate with UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard should she insist on investigating the spate of alleged summary killings in the country.

Another global rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls for "more international pressure on the Duterte government" to stop the killings.

In a statement on Thursday, the HRW said back-to-back criticisms of the country's drug war and moves to reinstate death penalty were "well-justified."

It was referring to the European Union (EU)'s earlier resolution, urging its members to support the establishment of an independent probe of the drug war by the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN special rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions and torture also called on Philippine lawmakers to reject the death penalty bill, which was recently passed by the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, the HRW expressed support for the EU's call for the immediate release of detained Senator Leila De Lima, a staunch Duterte critic arrested over drug charges.

'Mind your own business'

The Duterte administration has rejected criticisms, especially on De Lima's case.

Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Sal Panelo said the EU cannot dictate on the Philippine government.

"Neither can they demand our government the performance an act. That is foreign interference. They should mind their own business," Panelo said in a statement Friday.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella reiterated that international groups sympathizing with De Lima do not understand the context -- that she was arrested for her alleged involvement in drugs and not for her disapproval of the war on drugs.

"The lady is being charged with crime not political persuasions. So I think they ought to respect that," Abella said.

Duterte himself has repeatedly scored international bodies and other world leaders for criticizing his drug war. On December 2016, he even threatened to pull the country's membership out of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, De Lima, in a handwritten statement from prison said she was "deeply heartened" by calls for her immediate release, and international protests against alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.

"It's not at all interference with our country's internal affairs, but rather an aggregate assertion of the universal values of truth, justice and humanity," De Lima said.