THE United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights on Wednesday scored President Rodrigo Duterte for failing to understand international human rights law but Malacañang argued the President knew precisely the legalities and limits of the powers vested in his office.
“The President of the Philippines’ 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 Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.
“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,” he added.
Since taking office last June, the President has been accused of condoning state sanctioned extrajudicial killings against drug suspects, drawing criticism from many international organizations, including the UN.
On August, two UN special rapporteurs, Agnes Callamard and Dainius Puras, called on the Philippine government to stop the extrajudicial killings of persons linked to illegal drugs, gaining the ire of the President, who threatened to leave the UN.
The experts said that Duterte’s decision to ask law enforcers and the public to kill suspected drug traffickers “amount to incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law.”
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) expressed concern over the rise in the number of killings of suspected drug personalities, stating this was “not in line with the current provisions of international drug conventions.”
The President has consistently belittled these criticisms, chiding the United Nations for “meddling” in the Philippines’ internal affairs.
Duterte had also publicly cursed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon for allegedly doing nothing for the Philippines except to criticize his war on drugs.
Zeid said that he would “strongly encourage” the Philippines to invite Agnes Callamard–the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions–to further investigate the current spate of killings.
“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,” Zeid said.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo had earlier dared the UN “to come over and see for themselves the real situation,” but Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said this invitation was “not official.”
Duterte on Wednesday said anyone who wants to criticize him or lecture him about human rights in connection with his anti-drug war should “do it the right way.”
“If you want to criticize me, you bring the matter to the United Nations. Then they will call my attention, and I will answer, maybe in writing or send somebody there,” he said.
Duterte recently called UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon “a fool.”
The Palace denied the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights’ view that the President did not understand international human rights law.
“President Duterte is a respecter of 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,” Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
“As a lawyer and former prosecutor, the President knows the limits of the power and authority of the presidency. In his inauguration he said, ‘I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising,”’ he added.
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