Duterte’s first anniversary sparks human rights debate

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This photograph of the aftermath of an extrajudicial killing in Manila has become an iconic image of the war on drugs

Amnesty International claims that in just one year of the Duterte there have been more extrajudicial killings than under the decade-long rule of Ferdinand Marcos.

James Gomez, the human rights watchdog’s regional director, said: “Duterte came to power vowing to rid the Philippines of crime.


“Instead, people have been killed in the thousands by — or at the behest of — a police force that acts outside the law, on the orders of a president who has shown nothing but contempt for human rights and the people who stand up for them.

“The Duterte has resisted accountability at every stage. There has been no credible investigation by the authorities and there has been no cooperation with the UN special rapporteur.

“The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court may order a preliminary investigation into the mass killings. Given the rampant impunity, this may be the best option.”


Mr Gomez also warned of “lawlessness spreading in the country”.

“When human rights and the rule of law are cast aside, police become rogue and emboldened, and ordinary people suffer,” he said. “Security forces have a duty to abide by international law and standards.

“When they don’t, there is nothing differentiating them from the people they are supposed to be confronting.”

Leila de Lima
Jailed senator Leila de Lima has issued a fierce broadside against the president’s human rights record

Senator Leila de Lima, a fierce critic of the president who is currently imprisoned on drug-related charges, described Duterte’s first 12 months as a “year of lies, flawed policies and reckless violence”.

In two handwritten statements issued from her cell, she said: “I am the red flag that he waves at the Filipino people to distract them from his broken promises and their sufferings under his rule.

“One year. I can weep about my 127 days in detention, but my personal sufferings are nothing compared to what our people have suffered in one year of broken promises and misrule.”

However, in a speech in Tagum City today (Saturday, July 1) the president hit back at his critics.

“Most of the time, these human rights defend criminals. They have no clients who are not criminal,” he said.

“And you know that every day, as there is an addict that is killed, there is also an innocent person who is held up, to be arrested, to die… and these idiots just turn a blind eye.

“You can never hear the human rights, or the human rights lawyers even just an expression of sympathy or condemnation. The idiots do not care.”

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) — the ’s own watchdog — has issued a reminder about the meaning of ‘human rights’.

Commission on Human Rights infographic
The infographic issued by the CHR seeking to clarify the difference between “crimes” and “human rights violations”

In an infographic posted on Facebook this weekend, the CHR explains that its function is to be “the conscience of the government”.

“It is the CHR’s duty to protect the citizens’ rights from abuses by the state, such as the government, police, and military.

“It is the mandate of the CHR to ensure that there will be no abuse or negligence on the part of the in protecting and upholding the rights of all the citizens, especially those in the margins.

“Each branch of has a duty to observe and fulfil the rights and the needs of the citizenry. But if it is the state or the government itself that violates or denies human rights, that is when the CHR will act as the conscience of the government.

“If it is a civilian or private person who did the crime, such as killing or rape, it is the Philippine National Police who has the duty and mandate to take action.

“We are not against the government peace and order programme, not against going after drug syndicates.

“What we are against are the shortcutting of processes, such that innocent people merely accused are killed by the wayside in this campaign.”