MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said his administration will continue to protect human right rights but at the same time called out “interest groups” that use the issue to criticize him.
In his first address at the United Nations General Assembly since assuming office in 2016, Duterte repeated his stance of defending Filipinos against illegal drugs, crime and terrorism.
“The Philippines will continue to protect the human rights of its people, especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism,” he said in a pre-recorded speech.
Other countries have expressed concerns over the impact of drug war-related killings and media attacks under Duterte on the human rights situation in the Philippines.
But Duterte claimed that both well-meaning and ill-intentioned groups raising these concerns have “weaponized” human rights.
He said these groups have tried to do so to hit his administration.
“They attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected government which in its last two years, still enjoy the same widespread approval and support."
In a veiled reference to the country’s communist insurgency, Duterte cited unnamed groups for moving against the government but being guilty of violating human rights.
“These detractors pass themselves off as human rights advocates while preying on the most vulnerable humans; even using children as soldiers or human shields in encounters. Even schools are not spared from their malevolence and anti-government propaganda,” he said.
“They hide their misdeeds under the blanket of human rights but the blood oozes through.”
Duterte called for “open dialogue and constructive engagement” with the United Nations as a key to move forward on the issue of human rights.
However, he said these should be done respecting principles of “objectivity, non-interference, non-selectivity, and genuine dialogue,” which he called “fundamental bases for productive international cooperation on human rights”.
In previous years, Duterte has dared to cut diplomatic ties with the United Nations and the European Union over issues on the administration's handling of human rights.