MANILA, Philippines – An international human rights group has called out Duterte for not addressing the rising number of drug-related killings in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25.
Phelim Kine of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it is alarming that instead of speaking against the “sinister increase” in the killings of suspected drug personalities only a few weeks into his administration, Duterte decided to “implicity voiced support for such unlawful brutality.”
“Duterte implicitly voiced support for such unlawful brutality by stating that police can rightly put illegal drug suspects 'below the ground' if necessary,” Kine said.
Reflective of his hard stance against illegal drugs, Duterte said in his speech that “there will be no let-up in this campaign,” as efforts must be doubled or tripled if need be.
The President said "human rights" should not be used as a shield by those who are destroying the country – an apparent swipe at advocates who call for due process and respect for human rights every time drug suspects are killed by armed men or in police custody.
Duterte said the government would 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.”
Data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) shows that at least 293 suspects were killed from July 1 to 24, 2016, in Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.
This number does not include those killed by unidentified gunmen. (READ: War vs drugs: Cops kill over 300 suspects in 24 days)
Kine, however, emphasized that the due process should be followed in the fight against illegal drugs. (READ: Things to know: Human rights in the Philippines)
“President Duterte must publicly recognize that respect for rule of law and fulfilling the human rights of Filipinos extends to all Filipinos, including criminal suspects and those implicated in the drug trade,” Kine said.
In 2009, HRW released a report You Can Die Anytime: Death Squad Killings in Mindanao which investigated the vigilante killings in Davao City during the mayorship of Duterte. (READ: Davao Death Squad: What ever happened to the investigations?)
Meanwhile, HRW lauded the inclusion of rights of women, urban poor, and the indigenous people in Duterte's speech. It said the administration's committment to these sectors should be reflected in its policy map in the coming months.
“We hope that his administration produces policy initiatives that will provide tangible support for that positive rhetoric,” Kine said. “We encourage President Duterte to ensure that his government’s policy settings reflect those obligations.” – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.