A group of human rights advocates urged President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday not to give the police the impression that even rights defenders could be targetted in his war on drugs.
In a statement, the Network Against Killings in the Philippines (NAKPhilippines) said they were "appalled" that the President would even think of human rights activists as the enemy.
"His comment – that human rights is part of the drug problem and, as such, human rights advocates should be targetted too – can be interpreted as a declaration of an open season on human rights defenders. We condemn it in the strongest term possible," the group said.
Duterte on Monday night lashed out anew against the critics of his drug war, saying he would also kill human rights workers for being a factor should the drug menace worsen.
However, Malacañang said on Wednesday it was one of his remarks that should not be taken seriously, noting it could have been said out of frustration with working in government.
But NAKPhilippines believes the President's statements should not be taken lightly.
"Considering the alarming rate of summary and extrajudicial killings, we take this threat very seriously especially that it is issued by no less than the President himself," the group said.
"We appeal to President Duterte to revoke this statement so as not to give police officers and the death squads out there the wrong impression that, in the war on drugs, human rights are also targetted. Human rights activists are not the enemy."
The group also called on authorities to observe the rule of law and uphold human rights.
Apart from NAKPhilippines, Senator Leila De Lima and the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) had voiced concern over Duterte's remarks.
De Lima said Duterte's impunity, "both in words and actions," must be stopped while the NUPL branded the President's pronouncements as "reckless." — Virgil Lopez/RSJ, GMA News