Manila: A spokesman has played down the threat made by President Rodrigo Duterte against human rights activists, saying instead critics must assess the Philippine leader by his actions more than his words.
On Monday, Duterte said he will “include” human rights advocates during “harvest time where more people will die” since they are the “reason why [drug dealer and user] numbers swell.”
But Duterte should be judged based on his “actions more than his talk,” said Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Michel Kristian Ablan.
The president has promised that media will not be censored, and the right to assemble and free speech will be respected, Ablan said.
The best proof of that was when demonstrators were allowed to hold rallies in protest against the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos at the National heroes Cemetery in suburban Taguig, even if they had no permit to do so, Ablan said.
“There’s no threat at all. His statement last Monday was just another frustration in his difficulty in running the country,” the official said.
But the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) Secretary General Atty Ed Olalia said, “This attitude is reckless madness stemming from a non sequitur.”
“We are one in the difficult war against the drug menace. Our support to fight the scourge is ultimately borne by the desire to uphold human rights,” argued Olalia.
“Principled criticism is not obstructionism but cooperating to achieve a common purpose,” he added.
“We cannot hallucinate or go berserk in our fixation to quell this pandemic. We have to know who our real enemies are. Let us get a hold of ourselves here,” he added.
Local and international rights groups criticised Duterte’s campaign against illegal drug trade which has killed thousands since July.
The police said that drug syndicates were responsible for more than half of the incidents.
The illegal drug trade was worth $8.3 billion (Dh30.4 billion) a year in 2013, authorities say.