MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte should retract his threat against human rights advocates "before there is more blood on his hands," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday, August 17.
HRW said in a statement that Duterte's latest threat to order the police to shoot human rights advocates who allegedly "obstruct justice" places "targets" on their backs.
"Duterte's threats against human rights activists is like painting a target on the backs of courageous people working to protect the rights and upholding the dignity of all Filipinos," HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said.
On Wednesday, August 16, Duterte threatened to order police to shoot human rights advocates so they would know what real violations are like, as he accused them of a conspiracy that merits a probe in the near future. (READ: Duterte warns he'll order shooting of human rights advocates)
"Sabihin mo, 'Pulis, barilin mo na 'yang kasali diyan. If they are obstructing justice, you shoot them.' Para makita talaga kung anong klaseng human right," Duterte had said.
(Tell them, "Police, shoot those who are part of it. If they are obstructing justice, you shoot them." So they can really see the kinds of human rights.)
The New York-based organization fears that without a retraction of this threat, Duterte's violent order may lead to more deaths. (READ: Human rights advocacy IS a biased endeavor)
"Duterte should retract his reprehensible remarks immediately before there is more blood on his hands," Kine said.
International investigation needed
Duterte's statement is the latest in a string of threats against human rights groups in the Philippines under his administration. (READ: 'Demonizing' human rights in the first year of Duterte)
The President had attacked human rights advocates for criticizing his bloody war on drugs. At least 3,451 people have been killed in police operations as of July 26.
Kine warned that the death threats Duterte has thrown against human rights groups "could pave the way for prosecution for crimes against humanity."
"Duterte's assault on accountability highlights the urgent need for a UN-led international investigation into his drug-war slaughter," Kine said.
Created under the 1987 Constitution, the CHR is tasked to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by state actors. Investigating and arresting non-state actors behind crimes such as murder and rape is the primary responsibility of the police.
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.