MANILA - Malacañang on Monday said it would go by the statements of United States President Donald Trump when it comes to the war on drugs, after the US State Department said "killings by security forces" were among the "most significant" human rights issues in the Philippines last year.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he was finding it hard to reconcile the State Department’s report with Trump’s statement heaping praises on President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.
“I personally heard the discussion between President Trump and President Duterte when they were here in the Philippines during the ASEAN Summit and I think I heard words from President Trump praising President Duterte including the war on drugs. If I’m not mistaken, President Trump said he (Duterte) knows what he’s doing in the Philippines,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
“So I do not know how to reconcile the State Department report with the actual statement of the President. But for now, we were going by the statements of President Trump that we all heard from the mouth of President Trump.”
The US State Department said in its Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 that “concerns about police impunity increased significantly following the sharp increase in police killings.”
"The government investigated a limited number of reported human rights abuses, including abuses by its own forces, paramilitaries, and insurgent and terrorist groups," the annual report that reviews the human rights environment in at least 195 countries read.
In March, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said 4,075 drug-linked individuals have been killed while 91,704 anti-illegal drug operations have been carried out since President Rodrigo Duterte rose to power in July 2016.
Out of the total 2,467 drug-related homicide incidents recorded, 1,752 are still under investigation, while 715 have been solved, police said.
But the State Department noted that "the reported number of alleged extrajudicial killings varied widely, as government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) used different definitions."
Other human rights issues cited in the State Department's report were "harsh prison conditions," and "cases of apparent government disregard for legal rights and due process."
Responding to the State Department’s report, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the anti-narcotics campaign is "guided by the rule of law embodied in our Constitution, which also enshrines the country’s long-standing tradition of upholding human rights."
"We do not need others who think they know better than us Filipinos to tell us what to do. As a sovereign nation, the Philippines deserves the same kind of respect we have been extending to our friends in the international community," he said.