International groups press Duterte to end 'war' vs human rights defenders


Posted at Feb 28 2019 08:49 AM

MANILA--Incidents of human rights defenders being killed, attacked, threatened and harassed by the current Philippine government have increased, a rights watchdog's report revealed.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders on Thursday released a 40-page report titled, “I’ll kill you along with drug addicts -- President Duterte’s war on human rights defenders in the Philippines," condemning the atrocities and a culture of impunity.

"Alongside his infamous ‘war on drugs’, President Duterte has declared open season on human rights defenders in the Philippines,” said International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) secretary-general Debbie Stothard.

"It’s time for the international community to press Duterte to end his war on human rights defenders and ensure accountability for all attacks against them."

Since Duterte took office in June 2016, the drug war, the President's "violent rhetoric," and martial law in Mindanao have contributed to a hostile environment for human rights defenders, the report added

"President Duterte’s violent rhetoric has created a climate in which attacks against human rights defenders are acceptable and perpetrators are never punished,” said World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) Secretary-General Gerald Staberock.

"Instead of encouraging attacks, threats, and others acts of harassment against human rights defenders, Duterte and his administration must immediately adopt urgent measures to investigate such actions and protect defenders."

According to the report, at least 76 land and environmental rights defenders, 12 journalists, and 8 labor-rights activists were murdered from July 2016 to November 2018. 

The report also cited the harassment of the Commission on Human Rights and its mandate being called into question.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has pursued criminal charges against a number of Duterte’s political opponents who have taken strong pro-human rights views, such as Sen. Leila de Lima.

"President Duterte has shown an utter disregard for human rights and the rule of law by condoning, and even encouraging, the killing of suspected drug criminals," The Observatory said.

"Duterte’s encouragement of the extrajudicial killing of drug suspects has further reinforced the Philippines’ long-standing culture of impunity."

The Observatory, formed in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT, addresses repression of human rights. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, a European Union body advocating a civil society.

Meanwhile, the Palace continue to reject human rights groups that say the country has become a more dangerous place under Duterte administration.

Duterte's statement over extra-judicial killings as his "only sin" was also misinterpreted, officials said, adding that it should not be taken as an admission of guilt because Duterte had been disputing it ever since.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in police anti-drug operations since the President took office, but human rights groups have said that number is inaccurate.