Palace slams ‘thoughtless, irresponsible’ HRW report

MANILA-- MalacaAang on Thursday slammed a a Human Rights Watch report which claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte's first six months has been a human rights calamity for the Philippines.

"The observation that the Philippines is in the midst of a 'human rights calamity' is thoughtless and irresponsible," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

The New York-based HRW earlier Thursday released a 124-page report titled "License to Kill" which gave an overview of Duterte's war on drugs.

In the report, the international human rights group detailed specific cases of extrajudicial killings possibly perpetrated by the police and accused President Duterte of being criminally liable for the thousands of killings linked to the government's war on drugs.

But Abella pointed out that the Duterte administration may have averted a human rights calamity due to actions of the government.

"Is it a human rights calamity when more than 1.1 million drug pushers and addicts have voluntarily submitted themselves to authorities? Is it a human rights calamity when rehabilitation centers are being constructed to treat drug dependents? Is it a human rights calamity when the sheer scope and magnitude of an emerging narco state have been exposed?" Abella said.

The Palace official also twitted the HRW for taking to task the government's focused and decisive war against illegal drugs, saying that "a war on criminality is not a war on humanity."

"On the contrary, it is a war precisely to protect humanity from a modern-day evil. To say otherwise is to undermine society's legitimate desire to be free from fear and to pander to the interests of the criminals," Abella said.

He added that claims made by HRW that police are involved in so-called vigilante killings and are planting evidence in crime scenes are nothing more than allegations.

"It allegations) must be substantiated by solid evidence, eyewitness account and sworn statement/affidavit. Recovered firearms from drug suspects are kept in custody and subsequently presented before legal proceedings. Authorities have noted that there are cases when recovered firearms were traced to have been used in other crimes; most of these are loose and/or unregistered," he said.

"In short, all these accusations of circumventing police procedures should be proven in a competent court and if found meritorious should result in appropriate sanctions against the perpetrators. Failing these, such claims are mere hearsay," Abella stressed.

On the call by HRW for foreign governments to suspend assistance to the Philippines based on drug-related killings, the Palace official said "special interest groups should do their homework more diligently before attempting to engage in propaganda."

"President Duterte has won on a platform for genuine change and this will remain as his only agenda to serve the interest of the people," Duterte said.

Source: Philippines News Agency