DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte spoke for the first time before the United Nations (UN) General Assembly online to defend accusations of human rights abuses, as he took a swipe on critics for “weaponizing human rights” against him.
His speech, aired early Wednesday, claimed that the issues of human rights abuses raised by groups to the UN in the past years are an attempt to discredit the government.
“A number of interest groups have weaponized human rights; some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned. They attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected government which in its last two years, still enjoy the same widespread approval and support,” Duterte said.
The president did not mention any specific group on his claim but said these groups spread “malevolence and anti-government propaganda” even in schools.
“They hide their misdeeds under the blanket of human rights but the blood oozes through,” Duterte said.
The international community has reacted over the week on the Philippines’ human rights record.
The UN Human Rights Council that convened last week with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet calling for an “urgent need” to probe the killings and other abuses of human rights in the Philippines. This comes after hundreds of organizations worldwide wrote an appeal to the council to exercise its mandate to call for an independent probe.
134 activists and human rights defenders have been killed under the Duterte administration. While in Mindanao, hundreds and thousands have been displaced from the declaration of Martial Law and the recent anti-insurgency campaign that forcibly closed Lumad schools.
Duterte, however, said that his administration will take part in an “open dialogue” with the United Nations, but with a condition that it “must be done in full respect of the principles of objectivity, noninterference, non-selectivity, and genuine dialogue.”
The leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), however, scoffed at Duterte’s attempt to discredit human rights defenders, saying that “the whole world has already come to recognize” the human rights records of his administration.
“His statement about engaging the UN is empty rhetoric as it merely aims to blunt international criticism of his human rights record,” Reyes said.
“How can there be any meaningful dialogue and engagement with the UN if he does not recognize the existence of the human rights problem, to begin with?” he asked. The Bayan leader said referring to the failure of prosecuting human rights violators, while rights defenders are charged instead with trumped-up cases.
He added: “The human rights crisis is real and has been going on for the past four years. It is not an invention of the opposition. It is not a ploy by critics to make the government look bad. It is the direct result of the policies put in place by the Duterte regime. There is no one else to blame but the commander-in-chief.” (davaotoday.com)