File photo by Pierre Albouy/UN Photo
MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations human rights chief slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for ordering the Philippine National Police to ignore possible probes over the alleged human rights violations under the war on drugs.
“I deplore President Duterte’s statement last week to elite police units that they should not cooperate ‘when it comes to human rights, or whoever rapporteur it is’,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in his speech before the Human Rights Council.
On March 1, Duterte told police to ignore UN special rapporteurs, insisting that they have no right to "interfere" in the way he runs the country.
This is the latest in a series of tirades by the President against the UN, criticized as an indication that the government is evading accountability for killings. At least 3,987 deaths have been recorded from police operations alone since July 2016. (READ: Evading probes? The many times Duterte admin didn't give drug war documents)
Zeid also condemned the continuous vilification of Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, whom Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque recently said is welcome to “swim in Pasig River.”
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had previously said it will will not allow Callamard to investigate because of her "bias and antagonistic stance” while Roque said that the government would want a different rapporteur to investigate.
According to Zeid, as signatory to many international treaties and member of the UN Human Rights Council, the Philippine government “has a duty to uphold human rights and to engage with persons appointed.”
The UN human rights chief also expressed concern over the “deepening repression and increasing threats” by Duterte and his allies against groups or people who have voiced out criticism against his policies.
These include opposition legislators, public officials, human rights defenders, and journalists.
“This authoritarian approach to governance threatens to irreparably damage 30 years of commendable efforts by the Philippines to strengthen the rule of law and respect for the human rights of the people,” he said. – Rappler.com
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.