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Duterte blasts human right critics, touts anti-terror law at UN

President Rodrigo Duterte took a dig at critics of his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs, criminality and terrorism, whom he said have passed themselves off as human rights advocates to discredit the government.

In a recorded speech aired before the High-Level General Debate of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Duterte also highlighted the Philippines' Anti-Terrorism law, which was passed as the country was battling the pandemic.

The new law has earned local and international backlash as it could be used as a tool to prosecute political opponents.

This was the first time since he became president four years ago that the tough-talking Duterte took part in the gathering of the world's leaders done virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“A number of interest groups have weaponized human rights; some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned,” he said.

“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,” he added.

“These detractors pass themselves off as human rights advocates while preying on the most vulnerable humans; even using children as soldiers or human shields in
encounters. . . . They hide their misdeeds under the blanket of human rights but the blood oozes through,” Duterte said.

Duterte told the international body that his administration remains committed to protecting human rights against the “scourge” of terrorism, criminality and illegal drugs.

He said his administration will continue to take part in “open dialogue and constructive engagement” with the United Nations.

“But these must be done in full respect of the principles of objectivity, noninterference, non-selectivity and genuine dialogue. These are the fundamental bases for productive international cooperation on human rights,” he said.

UN probe

The Duterte administration has been widely criticized for its campaign against illegal drugs, which has killed thousand of suspected drug peddlers, many of them poor.

Human rights groups in the Philippines and abroad have condemned the killings connected with the so-called war on drugs.

In June this year, the UN human rights chief reported that many of such extrajudicial killings have been met with "near impunity."

In a report authorized by the UN Human Rights Council, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said the administration's "heavy-handed" focus on both "real and inflated" threats to national security has led to "serious" human rights violations in the Philippines.

She added "harmful rhetoric" from high-level officials, including Duterte, have been "pervasive and deeply damaging," some rising to the level of "incitement to violence."

In August this year, over 60 civil society organizations appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to immediately launch an independent investigation mechanism on alleged human rights abuses in the Philippines under the Duterte administration.

The groups, in the letter, expressed their "grave concern" over the alleged extrajudicial executions and human rights abuses being committed in the government's intensified campaign against illegal drugs.

According to them, the human rights situation in the Philippines "has undergone a dramatic decline" since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016.


Duterte also said the Philippines remains committed in the fight against terrorism, bringing to fore the enactment of the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act, which he said will provide for an “effective legal framework” in stamping out the menace.

“The Marawi siege, where foreign terrorist fighters took part, taught us that an effective legal framework is crucial. Our 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act shores up the legal framework by focusing on both terrorism and the usual reckless response to it,” he said.

“Its enactment was done pursuant to our commitment, and the strict adherence to the relevant Security Council resolutions and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  Most importantly, we remain committed to rebuild stricken communities and address the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism in my country,” Duterte added.—LDF, GMA News