In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte promised critics who have been accusing him of abetting extrajudicial killings that his administration will continue to promote human rights.
At the same time, he said he will not tolerate those who invoke human rights as an excuse to undermine the country.
“Human rights must work to uplift human dignity,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him as saying. “But human rights cannot be used as a shield or excuse to destroy the country.
”Duterte added that his government “shall be sensitive to the state’s obligation to promote and protect, and fulfill human rights of citizens, especially the poor, marginalized, and vulnerable.”
“Social justice will be pursued even as the rule of law shall at all times prevail,” he said.
While Duterte’s statement on human rights was applauded by his audience at the Batasang Pambansa and the public, international human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) described it as “confusing and contradictory”
.Phelim Kine, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s Asian branch, said Duterte contradicted himself when he stated he would uphold human rights while implicitly supporting extrajudicial measures against suspected drug pushers.
“Instead of speaking out against the sharp rise in police killings of suspected drug dealers and users and the sinister increase in extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects by unknown perpetrators, Duterte implicitly voiced support for such unlawful brutality by stating that police can rightly put illegal drug suspects ‘below the ground’ if necessary,” he said.