MANILA, Philippines—An international rights group criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.
Duterte, who appeared for the first time before the UN council, said that “a number of interest groups have weaponized human rights; some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned.”
Peter Murphy, chairperson of International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, said that although Duterte’s tone resembled that of an international leader, the message he sent still contained the venomous stance he has against human rights groups.
“The tone adopted by President Duterte in his speech to the UN General Assembly was properly moderate and constructive, but the substance contained the same poisonous language that has led to countless extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in these last four years,” said Murphy in a statement Wednesday.
“It is perverse for the President to redefine human rights as protection from illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism, when human rights begin with the right to life, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But the President has repeatedly and recklessly called for lives to be ended, women to be raped, telling his soldiers and police that he will take the blame.”
It was under the Duterte administration that thousands have been killed in his illegal drug war, a fight that human rights groups continue to combat to this day.
Duterte, in his speech, said that “these detractors” are passing themselves off as human rights groups and “prey on the most vulnerable of humans” and go as far as using children as soldiers and human shields.
“They hide their misdeeds under the blanket of human rights but the blood oozes through,” said Duterte.
Murphy, however, hit back saying that it’s Duterte’s soldiers that drop bombs on indigenous and peasant communities most notably the Lumad schools in Mindanao that the President himself threatened.
“With regard to the Lumad schools in Mindanao, he himself threatened to bomb them, his soldiers continue to harass school teachers and burn or close down the school. The continuing atrocities led to the murder of a Lumad student by a state-sanctioned paramilitary group in 2017,” said Duterte.
“We urge the Member States of the UN Human Rights Council to authorize the High Commissioner Bachelet’s office to hold a more wide-ranging investigation on the Philippine situation, to report back to the HRC. The Duterte government, if it stands by the President’s commitment to the UN principles and to multilateralism, should fully cooperate with such an initiative.” [ac]
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