A HUMAN rights group on Tuesday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for "implicitly" supporting the killings of alleged drug suspects during his first State of the Nation Address.
"Instead of speaking out against the sharp rise in police killings of suspected drug dealers and users and the sinister increase in extra-judicial killings of criminal suspects by unknown perpetrators, Duterte implicitly voiced support for such unlawful brutality by stating that police can rightly put illegal drug suspects 'below the ground' if necessary," Phelim Kine, Asia deputy director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement sent to the Manila Standard.
"Duterte made clear that his government's "relentless and sustained" campaign against illegal drugs?which Philippine human rights groups have blamed for a "surge of extra-judicial killings of suspected criminals and drug offenders"?won't end anytime soon.
"Instead, Duterte urged police: "Double your efforts. Triple them, if need be. We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier, and the last pusher have surrendered or [been] put behind bars or below the ground."
Kine said US Secretary of State John Kerry should express concern about Duterte's "relentless and sustained" campaign against illegal drugs when he meets him this week.
"Kerry should make clear to President Duterte that the Philippines' government and security forces must respect universal rights and freedoms and constitutional guarantees of due legal process in enforcing the country's laws, including those governing illegal drugs," Kine said.
Chairman Jose Luis Gascon of the Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, welcomed Duterte's commitment to protect human rights.
"At the first instance, I welcome the clear references to the importance and centrality to human rights, due process and rule of law that President Duterte mentioned in his first State of the Nation Address as well as his references to not tolerating any abuse of authority from erring law enforcement," his statement read.
With reservations, however, Vice President Leni Robredo backed Duterte's stance that human rights must not be an excuse to destroy the country.
"Yes, I believe that human rights should not be used as a shield [to destroy the country]. But we must always remember the whole world is looking up at our Constitution as the bastion of human rights," Robredo said.
In his speech before Congress on Monday, Duterte expressed his support for the rule of law and human rights during his administration.
"We shall be sensitive to the state's obligations to promote, and protect, fulfill the human rights of our citizenseven as the rule of law shall at all times prevail," Duterte said.
But Kine said Duterte's actions went against his declaration to respect the rule of law as he urged him to demand a thorough investigation into the "alarming" surge in the PNP's killings of alleged drug dealers and users.
"President Duterte must publicly recognize that respect for rule of law and fulfilling the human rights of Filipinos extend to all Filipinos, including criminal suspects and those implicated in the drug trade," Kine said.
But Kine welcomed Duterte's vow to protect the rights of women, reproductive health rights, the rights of the urban poor, and the country's Muslims and lumad indigenous people.
"We hope that his administration produces policy initiatives that will provide tangible support for that positive rhetoric. But as long as Duterte is a cheerleader for the summary killing of criminal suspects, the fundamental right to life of all Filipinos is at risk from state-sanctioned murder," he said.
Source: The Standard