MANILA - The brutal killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs leave the Philippines with "no moral ascendancy" to promote human rights when it hosts a regional summit this year, a former human rights chief said Friday.
Human rights remain a major concern within the region despite a supposed guarantee contained in an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) declaration.
As ASEAN host, the Philippines can push other member states to do more to promote and respect human rights, said Loretta Ann Rosales, former Commission on Human Rights chairperson.
But its credibility will be questionable because of the rising number of drug-related killings under Duterte, she said.
"We have no moral ascendancy under the Duterte administration," she told ABS-CBN News. "We have no moral ascendancy at the rate that he has been behaving."
Duterte will kick off the year-long ASEAN events in Davao City on Sunday.
Rosales cited Duterte's attacks on human rights groups for calling attention to suspected extra judicial killings under his watch.
Duterte once called a United Nations human rights official an "idiot."
But human rights violations are a regional problem, not just in the Philippines, said Dr. Eduardo Tadem, who heads an umbrella group of civil society organizations in a dialogue with ASEAN.
"This is why we have been constantly critical of ASEAN as a regional body with respect to human rights," he said in a forum.
Tadem criticized the ASEAN declaration for allegedly falling short of international standards and allowing "each government how they would interpret human rights within their specific country initiatives."
"ASEAN takes a very relativist concept of human rights," he said.