‘Duterte must break cycle of human rights violations’ – Amnesty Int’l

‘Duterte must break cycle of human rights violations’ – Amnesty Int’l
According to Amnesty International, President Rodrigo Duterte's commitment to uphold the rule of law is like a breath of fresh air

MANILA, Philippines – Coming on the heels of President Rodrigo Duterte’s inauguration on Thursday, June 30, Amnesty International urged the 16th president of the Philippines to “break the country’s poor human rights record.”

In his inaugural speech, Duterte promised to uphold the rule of law.

Addressing concerns about resorting to extrajudicial killings to solve the country’s drug and crime problem, the newly-inaugurated President said, “As a lawyer and a former prosecutor, I know the limits of the power and authority of the president. I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising.”

A day later, he told the Philippine National Police that if its members “kill 1,000 [criminals] in the line of duty,” he will “protect” them. (READ: Duterte to PNP: ‘Do you duty and I will die for you’)

This is a reiteration of his campaign promise to law enforcers that he would pardon them if they get convicted of crimes committed in the line of duty.

Human rights

In a statement released Friday, July 1, Amnesty International said that Duterte’s inaugural speech on upholding the rule of law is like a breath of fresh air. 

Throughout the campaign season, Duterte has triggered widespread alarm over his stance on extrajudicial killings and his call for the restoration of death penalty. He has also been criticized for intimidating human rights defenders.

“It is encouraging that he spoke of honoring the Philippines’ obligations under international law in his inauguration speech. But now he is in power, he needs to lend substance to those words and break with his earlier rhetoric,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

Defined as extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, and human trafficking, among others, human rights violations in the Philippines have decreased in the past years but cases still exist and remain unsolved, according to Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International welcomed this change in Duterte’s rhetoric but hopes these statements were not “merely issued to placate critics but are translated into actual policy and implemented in practice.”

Safety of journalists

The watchdog group also noted Duterte’s disregard for the safety of journalists.

“President Duterte makes full use of his right to freedom of expression. He should respect the fact that others also have this right to write and speak freely, and the authorities must respect and protect their right to do so without fear of imprisonment, threats, or violence,” Djamin said.

A few days before Duterte’s inauguration, he announced he would stop granting press conferences and would “boycott” the media. This move came after Duterte accused the media of twisting and misinterpreting his statements.

He was criticized by local and international press groups for his statement on the media killings in the Philippines, one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.

In a pooled editorial released a day before his inauguration, different media groups emphaszed that the Chief Executive and the press have a “common duty in law and tradition” to serve the Filipino people.

Outlining recommendations for the new administration, Amnesty International has also published a program of action and highlighted the need to end extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and secret detention, as well as torture and other forms of human rights abuse in the country. – with reports from Raisa Serafica/Rappler.com 

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