Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, December 9, promised to continue his campaign against illegal drugs, crime, corruption, terrorism and insurgency campaign despite being labeled as the “biggest threat to human rights” by activists and human rights group.
Presidential Human Rights Committee and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea issued a statement on the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that the government’s goal is to safeguard its citizens.
“To protect the lives of the innocent, law-abiding citizens of the country, this administration remains unrelenting in its crusade against criminality, corruption, terrorism, insurgency, and the proliferation of illegal drugs that destroy families and the future of the young,” he said as reported by The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Human rights defenders took their sentiments to the streets as they gathered in different parts of Metro Manila, Central Luzon and major cities in the Visayas and Mindanao. They condemned the president’s bloody war on drugs, deadly attacks on militants, the imposition of martial law in Mindanao and the plan to establish Duterte Death Squad to counter rebels.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, along with the other members of the opposition, also voiced out their criticisms towards the administration in commemoration of the Human Rights Day of the United Nations.
“We cannot continue treading this path. I call on the people to push back and stand up against the threat to our human rights. When the institutions we build to protect us are used against us, we prove aspiring tyrants wrong and take them back,” Hontiveros said.
“By unleashing a bloody and abusive war on drugs, he has set into motion the killing of thousands, most of whom are poor people, while big-time drug lords like Peter Lim continue to be free and billions of pesos worth of shabu are smuggled into our country aided by corrupt government officials,” she added
The senator also emphasized the importance of human rights in today’s setting. According to her, human rights should be applicable to all and should not be used by selective few to fuel their agenda.
“Human rights are not suggestions or ornaments. They are fundamental anchors to a society of fairness for the many, and not tools to be used by the privileged few,” Hontiveros said as reported by The Philippine Star.
“The president has single-handedly rolled back human rights safeguards and made the country a haven for human rights violators,” she added.
Senator Leila de Lima, a known critic of the Duterte administration, who is also detained for charges related to drugs, noted that there is an apparent “growing absence of human rights leadership in the world today.”
“Some governments themselves, led mostly by populist demagogues and autocrats, have actually attacked their own people. And far too many politicians and so-called leaders, including those in my country, the Philippines, seem to have forgotten the [Universal Declaration of Human Rights],” De Lima said.
However, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo was quick to defend the chief executive insisting that the leader respects human rights. Panelo, also the president’s legal counsel, considered the critics’ insights noting that they are “entitled to (their) opinion.”
“We have been saying so and we have shown it. We prosecute people who violate human rights,” Panelo said.
Medialdea supported Panelo as he explained that every presidential rule varies in their approach towards addressing the issues under their control.
“Every administration has its own emphasis and approach in its efforts to make human rights real for our people. Today, we further human rights in the era of Mr. Duterte along relevant paths reflected in our theme for this year’s observance: ‘Protecting Human Lives, Uplifting Human Dignity, and Advancing People’s Progress,’” Medialdea added.
Along with the relatives of alleged extrajudicial killing victims, the groups who were in protest reverberated the call to “further human rights” under Duterte’s administration.
The data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) showed that the killings in police operations reached 4,999 drug suspects from July 1, 2016, to Oct. 31, 2018. However, but rights groups claimed that it was over 20,000.
According to the group Movement Against Tyranny, there were four killings, seven frustrated killings, four disappearances, 47 trumped-up charges, 43 illegal arrests and detentions, 32 arbitrary arrests, 567 victims of threat, harassment and intimidation, and 927 victims of fake surrenders in 2018 alone.
The president said last week that he was taking full responsibility for the killings, and vowed to press his war on drugs, which he swore would be no less harsh than when it started after he took office in 2016.