MANILA - Malacanang on Wednesday came to the defense of President Rodrigo Duterte, after a United Nations official slammed the tough-talking leader for supposedly having a ''striking lack of understanding of human rights institutions.''
READ: UN official urges Duterte to send invite on killings probe
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, took exception to Duterte’s recent statements regarding alleged extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.
"The President of the Philippines's statements of scorn for international human rights law display a striking lack of understanding of our human rights institutions and the principles which keep societies safe," Zeid said.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte respects human rights, “but he has also been firm in saying that human rights cannot be used as an excuse to let the spread of drugs in the country run rampant.”
The rising body count under Duterte’s war on drugs has alarmed human rights groups, the UN, and the Philippines’ ally, the United States.
The number of drug-related fatalities from May 10 to September 14 has reached 1,529, according to ABS-CBN’s Investigative and Research Group.
Of the total killings, 907 were carried out by the police conducting anti-narcotics operations and 503 were done by unidentified assailants.
INVITATION FOR PROBE
Duterte appeared undeterred by criticisms to his campaign against drugs, saying countries and institutions should not be meddling with the Philippines’ domestic affairs.
The criticisms have also prompted Duterte to blurt out tirades against US President Barack Obama and UN officials, including secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
READ: Duterte denies calling Obama 'son of a b****,' hits Ban
Amid perceptions that the rule of law and the right to due process are being violated, Zeid reminded Duterte that "fair and impartial rule of law is the foundation of public confidence and security. Empowering police forces to shoot to kill any individual whom they claim to suspect of drug crimes, with or without evidence, undermines justice."
"The people of the Philippines have a right to judicial institutions that are impartial, and operate under due process guarantees; and they have a right to a police force that serves justice," added Zeid, a Jordanian prince.
Zeid urged Duterte to send an invitation to the United Nations rights body regarding extra-judicial, summary, and arbitrary executions in the Philippines.
"My office is ready to assist, including with respect to rule of law institutions and the prevention and treatment of drug use in accordance with international norms,” he said.
‘91% OF PINOYS SUPPORT WAR ON DRUGS’
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Ambassador Cecilia Rebong, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations and Other International Organizations, earlier briefed Zeid on the Philippines' campaign against illegal drugs. She also asked Zeid for support on Duterte’s war on drugs.
Rebong told Zeid that amid Duterte’s war on drugs, the Philippines remains resolute and uncompromising in its commitment to human rights, rule of law and due process. She also underscored the seriousness of the drug problem in the country.
"Being a state party to eight out of nine core international human rights conventions, the Philippines' utmost respect on human rights is resolute and uncompromising," Rebong said.
“The President's 91% approval rating signifies the Filipino people's support for leadership in the country's illegal drugs.”