MANILA—Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Chito Gascon on Friday said President Rodrigo Duterte was wrong in saying that United States President Donald Trump and other world leaders should “lay off” the topic of human rights when he meets them in two international fora.
Duterte earlier said he would tell Trump to “lay off” the issue of human rights if the latter brings it up in their meeting on the sidelines of either the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vietnam or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila.
Gascon, however, said human rights violations is a topic that the international community cannot just simply ignore to appease the firebrand leader, who is sensitive to criticism against his war on illegal drugs.
“When President Duterte says ‘lay off, it’s not your concern’, he is incorrect because human rights, since World War 2, has been a matter of international concern,” Gascon told ABS-CBN News at the sidelines of an event in Quezon City.
“The international community requires all states to abide by human rights standards, and so when Mr. Duterte’s administration violates human rights, the international community has a right to raise those concerns.”
Gascon also said the CHR has “low expectations” that the human rights concerns over Duterte’s war on illegal drugs will be raised during the ASEAN Summit, chaired this year by Manila.
“We have low expectations for the states in the region to raise those concerns because of the tradition within ASEAN…they [call] non-intervention,” he said.
Gascon noted that for the CHR, the principle of non-intervention should not be applied when it comes to human rights issues since this matter is “not within the exclusive jurisdiction of states.”
Commenting on Gascon's statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Saturday said as far as Duterte is concerned, the anti-narcotics campaign remains a "domestic" issue.
"That's the opinion of the CHR chair. As far as Philippine President Duterte is concerned, the war against drugs is a domestic police matter. It is subject to the principle of non-interference which is recognized in the UN Charter and international law," he said in a press briefing in Vietnam.
The Duterte administration has many times defended the war on drugs, saying it does not condone police abuses nor sanction summary killings.
The government has said more than 3,800 were killed in legitimate anti-illegal drug operations, while human rights groups peg the number of deaths at more than 13,000.
Duterte recently scaled back his campaign against illegal drugs, tapping the smaller Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the lead government body to enforce the campaign and relegating the police force to a supporting role.
This amid recent surveys showing a slide in his satisfaction and trust ratings and an eroding trust in the police.