MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said his administration will not shirk from its responsibility in upholding human rights despite criticism on the aggressive crackdown on illegal drugs.
In his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, the President said his administration has always maintained that freedom from illegal drugs, terrorism, corruption and criminality, is itself a human right.
“We will not dodge our obligation to fight for human rights,” he said.
Last June, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet found alleged human rights violations in the administration’s anti-illegal drug campaign.
However, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the inter-agency panel chaired by his office is looking into all 5,655 anti-drug operations that resulted in deaths and will release a report in November.
Malacañang also assured anew that the administration does not tolerate human rights abuses and will always see to it that perpetrators are punished.
Meanwhile, Duterte said the administration has also taken steps to protect children from exploitation by signing Executive Order No. 92 creating the National Council Against Child Labor last year.
“Government efforts to protect the rights of children will be amplified to prevent, reduce, and eliminate any form of child labor,” he said.
Duterte said he also issued last year Executive Order No. 100 establishing the Diversity and Inclusion Program as a national program of the government.
“We want to end the discrimination of persons on the basis of age, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression, and other character traits,” he said.
Martial law sans abuses
Duterte added the declaration of martial law in Mindanao in 2017 due to the spate of violence and hostilities in Marawi City was implemented without any abuses by law enforcement authorities.
“Martial law in Mindanao ended without abuses by the civilian sector, by the police, by the military. It ended because this time I know that they know how to love the country,” he said.
The siege laid by the Islamic State-inspired Maute group on May 23, 2017 prompted Duterte to place the whole of Mindanao under martial law.
Congress extended the initial 60-day martial rule thrice upon the President’s recommendation to help state forces quell the insurgency in Mindanao. Azer Parrocha /PNA – northboundasia.com