MALACANANG described Sunday the claims of an official of an international human rights organization the Philippines had not made any genuine efforts in seeking accountability on the alleged rights violations amid war on illegal drugs, as “off track”.
“The latest remarks of the Human Rights Watch the Philippine government had not made genuine efforts to seek accountability on alleged abuses in our anti-drug campaign are simply off track,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a statement.
Roque’s statement followed the weekend joint statement by different sectors who decried what they called the worsening state of human rights in the country.
In their statement, incumbent and former legislators, lawyers and doctors, artists and members of the media, academics and religious leaders, representatives of NGOs and peoples organizations, and prominent individuals warned of a “new and wider wave of killings and human rights violations in the country” under the Duterte government.
Among the signatories to the “Joint Statement of Concern on the Deteriorating Human Rights Situation” are: Sen. Francis Pangilinan and former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada; congressmen Edcel Lagman, Jose Christopher Belmonte, Sarah Elago, Carlos Zarate, Emi de Jesus, Antonio Tinio, France Castro, Ariel Casilao and Tom Villarin;
“As December 10, International Human Rights Day, nears, we decry the continuing deterioration of human rights in our country,” the statement said.
Roque accused HRW of “refusing to acknowledge the efforts of the administration in addressing alleged abuses of scalawag policemen,” noting that it had a “penchant for playing blind, deaf and dumb.”
“Perhaps this HRW must be reminded that an entire police force in Caloocan was relieved because of alleged abuses, and the PDEA [Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency] was designated to be the lead agency in the government anti-drug operation,” Roque said.
“Lest we forget, as much as due process governs the cases of alleged victims, the same must likewise be accorded to state agents accused of being perpetrators,” Roque also said.
Last Friday, HRW associate director for International Justice Program Param-Preet Singh belied Roque’s claims the government was conducting probe on the alleged abuses by authorities in anti-illegal drugs operations.
“The government has made no genuine efforts to seek accountability for drug war abuses. There have been no successful prosecutions or convictions of police implicated in summary killings despite compelling evidence of such abuses,” Singh said in statement.
Roque asked the 16th Assembly of state-parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to respect the country’s proceedings on terrorism and illegal drugs, adding the Philippines could leave the international tribunal following Duterte’s pending case over the slays blamed on his anti-illegal drugs campaign.
The government’s war against illegal drugs has caught the attention of local and international human rights groups due to the increasing number of killings under the Duterte administration.
In a separate statement, Roque also said the Duterte administration was working hard “with the best interest of every Filipino, especially the poor and the marginalized and most vulnerable, as its main concern.”
The Philippines is an active member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and respect for human rights as State policy is enshrined in our 1987 Constitution, Roque said.
The Duterte Administration works hard with the best interest of every Filipino, especially the poor and the marginalized and most vulnerable, as its main concern, he said.
These are the women and children in crises situations, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, migrant workers, older persons, people and communities displaced by natural and human-induced calamities, among others, he said.
Roque said the best way to do this was to ensure government efficiency and effectiveness that would translate to every Filipino getting a fighting chance to overcome poverty, to uplift one’s status in society and to live a life with higher dignity.
He said that direction was what inspired the government’s compliance with its human rights obligations.
“As a Nobel Peace Prize winner once said, ‘poverty is the absence of human rights.’ This government shall strive to bestow upon every Filipino an equal share in the nation’s progress. And we are pleased that this direction has been accepted by no less than the highest peer review body in the world on all matters of human rights, which is the UNHRC, when it unanimously accepted and commended the Outcome Report on the Philippines’ Universal Periodic Review this year,” he said.
Roque’s remarks came after militant groups, on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, condemned the rise of the number of killings under the government’s war on drugs.
Roque said the best way to fight for human rights was “to ensure government efficiency and effectiveness that will translate to every Filipino getting a fighting chance to overcome poverty, to uplift one’s status in society and to live a life with higher dignity.”
“That direction is what inspires the government’s compliance with its human rights obligations,” Roque also said.
Various groups have started to conduct protest actions such as marches, Eucharistic celebrations, and candle-lighting activities, to voice their sentiments on alleged human rights violations.
On top of the premeditated killings by police officers of defenseless youth Kian delos Santos, 17, Carlo Angelo Arnaiz, 19, and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman, 14, the recent killings of Catholic priest Fr. Marcelito Paez in Nueva Ecija. Pastor Lovelito Quinoñes in Mindoro Oriental, and human rights activist Elisa Badayos in Negros Oriental signal a new and wider wave of killings and human rights violations in the country.
“Such killings come on the heels of Pres. Duterte’s closing the door on the peace talks with the NDFP, and his admonition to state security forces to shoot and kill suspected armed rebels. We are alarmed that just as Oplan Tokhang saw thousands of alleged drug users or peddlers mowed down based on mere suspicion and spurious claims of ‘nanlaban’, the President’s new order can also give state forces the license to kill unarmed civilians conveniently labelled as ‘rebels,’” it said.
The statement said the President’s threat to crack down on activists, critics and all those whom he imagined were conspiring to topple his government had a chilling effect on the public and impinged on the people’s exercise of their political rights and civil liberties.
The continuing efforts to undermine the system of checks and balances in government – the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, the threat to impeach Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, the bullying of the Commission on Human Rights and the continued detention of Sen. Leila de Lima – are equally worrisome, they said.
More so efforts of the President and his supporters to threaten and intimidate members of the media, they added.