MANILA – Human rights organization Amnesty International Philippines called out President Rodrigo Duterte over his threat to kill human rights defenders if the country's drug problem worsens.
Duterte said on Monday said human rights activists should be blamed if the number of illegal drug personalities in the country balloons.
“Sabi ng human rights (defenders), pinapatay ko raw, sabi ko ‘sige na maghinto tayo, paramihin natin.’ Para ‘pag panahon ng harvest time mas marami na tuloy mamatay, isali ko na kayo kasi kayo ang nagpalaki eh,” Duterte said.
(Human rights defenders say I kill. I say, fine, let’s stop and let the number of drug personalities increase. When harvest time comes and there are many of them, I will include you because you made the problem bigger.)
The international organization said Duterte’s pronouncement that human rights activists are obstacles to law enforcement is “erroneous… and is not only damaging but in itself is inciting hate towards anyone who expresses dissent on his war against drugs.”
“Amnesty International Philippines emphasizes that these extremely polemical attacks on human rights defenders deliberately give the public inaccurate information on human rights work,” the group said.
“International human rights law states the government obligations to refrain from acts that are counter-progressive to promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.”
AI Philippines also noted that the Philippines is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998 which recognizes the importance and legitimacy of human rights defenders.
“Without human rights defenders, injustices go unchallenged, the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our societies will not have a say, people have little protection from abusers of power and governments and businesses can act with impunity,” the group said.
Senator Leila de Lima, Duterte’s staunchest critic, meanwhile said that Duterte’s statement must not be taken as a mere joke since he is the country’s president.
“Action must be taken to assure that the Government respects and abides by the human rights of everyone. We must defend those who defend human rights in this country and oppose all initiatives and actions that would make international accountability for [human rights] violations and and abuses difficult,”
De Lima also scored Duterte’s threat to pull out of the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor recently issued a warning about the drug killings in the Philippines.
“President Duterte must not be allowed to kill human rights activists and absolve himself of their murder by pulling out of the ICC,” De Lima said.
“His impunity, both in words and actions, must be put to a stop and end soon. There is no other way to do this but to continue to fight for what is right, and to defeat the great evil that now pervades in this country.”