By Hannah Torregoza
Detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima challenged the Duterte administration anew to resolve the country’s worsening human rights crisis, saying it cannot afford to ignore the mounting concerns over the spate of extrajudicial killings, the President’s attacks against human rights activists and Church leaders.
De Lima renewed her call after the Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its 2019 World Report revealing that the human rights crisis in the Philippines “deepened” in 2018 under the regime of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I challenge Mr. Duterte to stop bringing violence and terror to the populace because his drug war – which is already out of control — continues to wreak havoc on the lives of Filipino families, especially the poor,” de Lima said in her latest statement.
“Mr. Duterte should also stop ignoring the continuing concerns about the plight of the human rights defenders in the country whose works have become extremely difficult and dangerous as he painted them as allegedly ‘enemies of the state,’” she added.
The HRW in its 2019 World Report said that the administration’s war on drugs, which was launched shortly after Duterte assumed presidency in 2016, continued in 2018 amid snowballing global criticisms and calls to stop the killings.
HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote in the 674-page report’s keynote essay that Duterte regime “encouraged more summary executions, supposedly of drug suspects, but often of people guilty of no more than being poor young men.”
There is also a continuing attack on human rights activists and critics of the government to “silence” them, noting how De Lima – whom HRW called as Duterte’s “most prominent critic” – remains in unjust detention on obviously politically motivated, trumped-up drug charges, according to the World Report.
“Since February 2017, Senator Leila de Lima has been jailed on politically motivated drug charges filed against her in apparent retaliation for leading a Senate inquiry into the ‘drug war’ killings. Her plight has prompted international expressions of support,” part of the report read.
The HRW also pointed out that the children who have been literally caught in the barrage since Duterte launched his murderous war on drugs have been relegated as mere “collateral damage.”
For her part, De Lima said the government should start basing its campaign against illegal drugs on human rights and the rule of law to prevent more casualties.
The President should also stop looking at criticisms about his governance as attacks against him.
“Amid these mass atrocities, the government should be the first to stand up for the basic values of human dignity and equality of everyone instead of staining its hands with the blood of its people,” she said.
“Because of Duterte’s madness, suspected drug offenders who don’t get to have a day in the court– including women and children — and the rights activists and church leaders who defend them, are becoming more and more vulnerable to intimidations, attacks and killings,” the senator noted.
The lawmaker, likewise, urged the Filipino people and the civil society organizations to continue lobbying and pushing for rights-based legislation and call out, report and demand accountability for state-led abuses.
“The year 2019 will be more challenging for Filipinos in terms of human rights situation but we should never forget to act in solidarity with each other in hopes to rebuild decency in government and to rebuild dignity in our society,” she stressed