MANILA - International advocacy group Human Rights Watch said Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) "was laced with confusing and sometimes contradictory messages."
In a statement, Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said that the unwillingness of the government to "demand a thorough investigation into the alarming surge in police killings of suspected drug dealers and users in recent weeks symbolizes a critical failure in his obligation to defend rule of law and to protect the rights and freedoms of all Filipinos."
"Instead of speaking out against the sharp rise in police killings of suspected drug dealers and users and the sinister increase in extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects by unknown perpetrators, Duterte implicitly voiced support for such unlawful brutality by stating that police can rightly put illegal drug suspects 'below the ground' if necessary. 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 a statement.
The group lauded Duterte for advocating the rights of women, reproductive health rights, the rights of the urban poor, and the country’s Muslims and Lumad indigenous people.
However, Human Rights Watch is hoping that Duterte's administration will also produce "policy initiatives that will provide tangible support for that positive rhetoric."
"But as long as President Duterte turns a blind eye to – or implicitly or explicitly encourages --summary killings, the fundamental right to life of al Filipinos is at risk from potentially random extrajudicial violence," the statement said.