The Daily Manila Shimbun


Duterte rebuts Human Rights Watch, leaves it up to PNP to restore tokhang

March 2, 2017

President Rodrigo Duterte rebutted a human rights organization who accused him of  committing “crimes against humanity” with his war on drugs that have killed thousands since he took office on June 30 2016.

“If you kill criminals, it is not a crime against humanity. The criminals have no humanity,” said Duterte in an ambush interview with reporters in Cebu.

Duterte said he is leaving it up Philippine National Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa if tokhang will return in full swing.

“I will place it squarely on the shoulders of Bato (Dela Rosa’s nickname). But they have to be very careful because I would say that charges should be filed if they commit a mistake,” added Duterte.

For those who were killed in police operation, Duterte said:”Those who were killed during encounters, of course, I answer for them.I hold myself legally responsible.”

“Don’t charge the policemen and the soldiers as well because I was the one who made the order,” he added.

Duterte denied that policemen were engaged in planting evidence.

Human Rights Watch, in its report, said Duterte committed crimes against humanity due to the extrajudicial killings of individuals allegedly involved in illegal drugs.

“Our investigations into the Philippine ‘drug war’ found that police routinely kill drug suspects in cold blood and then cover up their crime by planting drugs and guns at the scene,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch and author of the report.

“President Duterte’s role in these killings makes him ultimately responsible for the deaths of thousands,” he said.

Over 7,000 people, who were allegedly involved in illegal drugs, were killed during the past six months of the Duterte administration. Some died during the police operations.

"Anent a report of Human Rights Watch (HRW) taking to task the government's focused and decisive war on illegal drugs, we have these to say:  A war on criminality is not a war on humanity," said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella in a statement.

On the contrary, he said Duterte's war on illegal drugs was precisely to protect humanity from "a modern-day evil."

"To say otherwise is to undermine society's legitimate desire to be free from fear and to pander to the interests of the criminals," he said.

He also challenged the New York-based group to substantiate its allegation of planting evidence to justify police action.

Abella said there should be "solid evidence, eyewitness account and sworn statement/affidavit" to prove HRW's allegation.

Recovered firearms from drug suspects are kept in custody and subsequently presented before legal proceedings, he said.

Authorities have noted that there are cases when recovered firearms were traced to have been used in other crimes; most of these are loose or unregistered, he noted.

"In short, all these accusations of circumventing police procedures should be proven in a competent court and if found meritorious should result in appropriate sanctions against the perpetrators. Failing these, such claims are mere hearsay," he said.

Abella also hit HRW for its observation the Philippines is in the midst of a human rights calamity, branding it as "thoughtless and irresponsible."

Abella wondered how it could be a human rights calamity when over 1.1 million drug pushers and addicts have voluntarily surrendered to authorities and when rehabilitation centers are being constructed to treat drug dependents.

"Is it a human rights calamity when the sheer scope and magnitude of an emerging narco state have been exposed?," he added.

HRW accused Duterte of ordering and instigating the killings, thus, he is criminally liable for the crimes.

Abella said Duterte is constitutionally immune from suit. "But he has always been forthcoming with his fellow Filipinos to encourage constructive criticism, nay dissent, in the spirit of democracy and nation-building," he said.

On a call by HRW for foreign governments to suspend assistance to the Philippines based on drug-related killings, Abella urged "special interest groups to do their homework more diligently before attempting to engage in propaganda."

"President Duterte has won on a platform for genuine change and this will remain as his only agenda to serve the interest of the people." Celerina Monte/DMS