Abuses, killings in PH possibly incited by Duterte's violent rhetoric – U.N. report

The United Nations Human Rights Office on Thursday, June 4, said that the various threats of President Rodrigo Duterte possibly resulted in violence in the Philippines, despite clarifications of the presidential spokesperson or other government officials.

In its recent report, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) said that widespread killings, arbitrary detention, and state abuses "suggest that his public comments may have incited violence and may have had the effect of encouraging, backing or even ordering human rights violations with impunity."

"The use of such language could amount to a violation of the prohibition against arbitrary deprivation of life in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," the UN report stated.

The UN report highlighted the various violent statements by the President, including his latest shoot-to-kill order against quarantine violators in April. It also said that the government's rhetoric "has ranged from degrading and sexually-charged comments against women human rights defenders, politicians and combatants

Aside from Duterte's statements, the report also noted Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr's deleted tweet in which he tagged members of progressive groups as communists, and commenting that "you shoot them. You don’t listen to them." The report, however, did not name Locsin. (READ: Locsin locked out of Twitter after violent tweet vs Bayan)

"In recent years, harmful rhetoric from the highest levels of the government has been pervasive and deeply damaging," the UN office said in the report. "Some statements have risen to the level of incitement to violence."

Heavy-handed

The UN OHCHR also said that the serious violations stemmed from the "heavy-handed focus" of the government against national security threats,"often at the expense of human rights, due process rights, the rule of law, and accountability.” 

Groups consistently criticized the Duterte administration for the "tragic" human rights situation in the Philippines since 2016, including the high number of deaths under the government's anti-illegal drugs campaign.

At least 6,000 suspected drug personalities were killed in police operations while rights groups pegged the number to reach more than 20,000 to include those killed vigilante-style. (READ: The Impunity Series)

“People who use or sell drugs do not lose their human rights,” UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

“People who disagree with Government policies and criticize them, including in international fora, should not be vilified as terrorist sympathizers.. Indigenous peoples should not be victims of a tug-of-war between the state, non-state armed groups and business interests.," she added.

The report followed a resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2019, which asked UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to write and present the report to the UNHRC 44th Session this June. – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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