Robredo hits Duterte for 'untruth' on human rights

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Vice President Leni Robredo criticized President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday, July 28, for pitting "human rights" against "human lives" in his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Robredo, a long-time human rights lawyer, said Duterte's statement was a "blatant untruth" and a "false and misleading dichotomy."

"We all know that even the most casual student of human rights will recognize this statement for what it is: a false and misleading dichotomy. It is apparent to anyone who wishes to see clearly, that the right to life is one of the most basic human rights. We fight for human rights precisely because we value human lives," Robredo said.

Robredo was speaking at an event to award detained Senator Leila de Lima, also a human rights advocate, with the Liberal International "Prize for Freedom." This comes after Duterte in his SONA on Monday, July 23, told critics, "Your concern is human rights. Mine is human lives." 

In her speech on Saturday, Robredo not only criticized Duterte but also challenged human rights advocates. To make human rights relevant, she said they should learn to speak the language of "the man or woman on the street."

"Beyond speaking truth to power, we must speak truth to the heart of every Filipino. We cannot do this by expecting the man or woman on the street to understand the language of those who have been studying and fighting for human rights for so long," she said.

"We must use their language. We must see where they are coming from. We must feel their fears and their anger. We must understand their struggles. And we must all speak with one voice," the Vice President added.

Robredo said human rights should not remain "a vague, academic idea" for Filipinos. Human rights, after all, "is their protector against tyranny," and is a means to ensure "they eat 3 meals a day and are able to send their children to school."

BACKING DE LIMA. Vice President Leni Robredo (center) and former president Benigno Aquino III (left) do the trademark '5' sign of detained Senator Leila de Lima.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

She went on to to call the governement's anti-illegal drug campaign a "battlefield" with "no end in sight." (READ: At least 33 killed daily in the Philippines since Duterte assumed office)

"We have had a long history of bloody struggles in very dark times, and I refuse to believe that we suffered them for nothing," Robredo said. "We will prevail."

Like Robredo, former president Benigno Aquino III criticized Duterte's recent remarks on human rights and human lives.

"Puwede bang paghiwalayin 'yon? Puwede bang wala kang karapatan?" Aquino said in an interview with reporters. (Can we separate the two? Can it be that you have no rights?) – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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