CHR told: Stop drug probe or be abolished
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte threatened to abolish the Commission on Human Rights should it continue to investigate his bloody war on drugs.
In a news conference soon after his second State of the Nation Address, Duterte told security forces that they should not appear in any investigation without his approval—adding that investigators should course their requests through him first.
“CHR… you are better abolished. I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated. Human Rights Commission, you address your request through me because the Armed Forces is under me and the police are under me,” the President said.
Duterte added that the CHR should first investigate the recent New People’s Army ambush on Presidential Security Group members in North Cotabato.
“CHR should investigate the ambush against the PSG. If you do not have a report, do not mess with us,” Duterte said.
The President had the same message to the Office of the Ombudsman, saying that it should refrain from citing anyone in contempt because he had the authority to tell soldiers and the police whether they should cooperate with an investigation.
“So, don’t force [me] to clash with you. Clear it with me first. You address it to the DILG [Department of Interior and Local Government], to me. Attention DILG,” he said.
While he acknowledged that the Ombudsman is there to check on government, he said the anti-graft body should be fair to all sides.
“If you fail to address also the atrocities of the other side… then do not investigate my army and police,” the President said.
“Do not make it a one-sided affair. I will not allow it. As President, I will not allow it. Justice for all. What is sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose,” he added.
The two institutions are constitutional bodies that are independent of the other branches of government.
The CHR is constitutionally tasked to investigate alleged human rights violations perpetrated by state actors or the government, while the Ombudsman represents the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or violations of rights.
Responding to Duterte’s threats, the CHR lambasted Duterte’s wrong understanding of their mandate under the Constitution.
“If you look at the Constitution, the CHR was created to look into abuses by the government. These kinds of statements are the result of a wrong appreciation of the CHR’s mandate,” said CHR spokesperson Jackie de Guia, speaking in Filipino.
De Guia insisted that the CHR’s responsibility is to make sure the government and agencies under it are held liable for violations of human rights.
Human rights violations by criminals is beyond the scope of the body and are under the jurisdiction of the Philippine National Police, she added.
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday said research has shown that the President’s anti-drug war was a police-led extrajudicial execution campaign that has resulted in more than 7,000 deaths since Duterte took office in June 2016.
In a statement, HRW said Duterte has glorified those deaths as proof of the “success” of anti-drug measures that have disproportionately targeted urban slum dwellers.
HRW said government claims that the deaths of suspected drug users and dealers were lawful are false.
Interviews with witnesses and victims’ relatives and analysis of police records show a pattern of unlawful police conduct designed to paint a veneer of legality over extrajudicial executions, the group also said.
In his second Sona, Duterte said drug dealers had two choices: jail or hell, and accused activists who have documented serious human rights violations linked to his drug war of “trivializing” the campaign by demanding respect for legal process.
Lawmakers on Tuesday said President Duterte’s second Sona should serve as a wake-up call to human rights activists to transcend their personal biases and partisan interests and help the government warn about the dangers of drug abuse.
“President Duterte has made a perfect pitch in his Second Sona for giving No. 1 attention to fighting crime and enhancing peace and order, which are a requisite to sustaining the Philippines’ rise as one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies,” said Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte.
The government’s critics “should heed his call for them to set aside their personal biases and partisan interests and refocus their efforts on educating the public on the evils of illicit drugs and all other forms of criminality,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte added the President has also made deft use of his Sona to explain to Congress and the public the necessity for imposing—and securing an extension of—martial law in Mindanao.
But Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said Duterte failed to deliver on his promises to the poor and marginalized members of society, avoiding the issue of genuine agrarian reform or the end of labor contracting.
“His continued coddling of the military and police only encourages more abuses,” Casilao added.
Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her support on Tuesday for some calls of President Duterte to stop crime without sacrificing the importance of human rights and rule of law.
“I believe, just like what the President believes in, that there is a need to fight criminality. However, we have a different approach from one another,” she said.
“I believe in the anti-drug campaign and the security of peace and order for as long as we do not violate any human rights.”
She underscored the need for the rule of law, saying it serves as the poor’s shield against possible abuses of power.
She also reiterated her stand against reinstating the death penalty. With Rio N. Araja