All Filipinos’ right to life now at risk
President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) was laced with confusing and sometimes contradictory messages. At one point he stated rightly that the “rule of law must at all times prevail” and that government is obliged to “fulfill the human rights of our citizens.”
However, President Duterte’s unwillingness to use his Sona to direct a thorough investigation into the alarming surge in the killings of suspected drug dealers and users in recent weeks, allegedly by the police, symbolizes a critical failure on his part to fulfill his obligation to defend the rule of law and to uphold and protect the rights and freedoms of all Filipinos.
Human Rights Watch encourages President Duterte to ensure that his administration’s policies reflect those obligations.
Instead of speaking out against the sharp rise in the killings of suspected drug dealers and users, and the sinister increase in extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects by unknown perpetrators, Mr. Duterte implicitly voiced support for such unlawful brutality by stating that police can rightly put illegal drug suspects “below the ground” if necessary. President Duterte must publicly recognize that his duty to respect the rule of law and protect the human rights of Filipinos extends to all Filipinos, including criminal suspects and those implicated in the drug trade.
It’s encouraging to note that Mr. Duterte spoke out for the rights of women, reproductive health rights, the rights of the urban poor, the country’s Muslims, lumad and other indigenous peoples. We hope that his administration produces policy initiatives that will provide tangible support for that positive rhetoric. But as long as President Duterte turns a blind eye to—or implicitly or explicitly encourages—summary killings, the fundamental right to life of all Filipinos is at risk from potential random extrajudicial violence.
—PHELIM KINE, Asia deputy director, Human Rights Watch
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