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Human lives are human rights – CHR

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
Human lives are  human rights â CHR
Reacting to Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia took exception to his criticism of human rights advocates, stressing that human lives are also human rights.
KrizJohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — It is “illogical” for President Duterte to make a distinction between “human lives” and “human rights” because there is none, critics said yesterday.

Reacting to Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia took exception to his criticism of human rights advocates, stressing that human lives are also human rights.  

“While the President spoke of continuing the war on drugs which is disappointing, he also spoke about a myriad human rights such as migrant worker rights, right to a healthful and balanced ecology, peace, internal displacement, right to health and decent standard of living – all of which make human lives meaningful,” she said. 

“The protection and promotion of human rights is a fight for the preservation of a dignified human life for all. This demonstrates that there is in fact no distinction between human rights and human lives,” she added. 

In his speech, Duterte said he will not be dissuaded by critics and protests in pursuing his “relentless and chilling” campaign against illegal drugs. 

“Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives,” he added. “The lives of our youth are being wasted and families are destroyed, and all because of the chemicals called shabu, cocaine, cannabis and heroin.”

The CHR has reiterated that while it supports efforts to eradicate illegal drugs, it should not result in violation of other human rights of the people. 

“We are supportive of all the rights he has urged Congress to advance while we remain steadfast that the campaign against drugs should not be at the expense of human lives,” De Guia said. 

For Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Duterte’s statement is “illogical” because the right to life is the most basic human right.

As to Duterte’s pronouncement about pursuing a “relentless and chilling” campaign against illegal drugs, David said it is “scary.”

“It means we have to brace ourselves for more killings. He said while Church and human rights advocates are ‘concerned about human rights,’ he is ‘concerned about human lives.’ (Is not the right to life the most basic human right?) Such a statement implies that the victims of drug-related killings are not human lives!” David wrote in a social media post titled “Concerned About Human Lives?”

The prelate reiterated that the Catholic Church would not agree to the government’s policy because they do not see drug dependents only as criminals, but as sick people who need to be rehabilitated to be cured.

“Yes, use the full force of the law, file charges against violators, jail the pushers and the suppliers, but save the users; do not kill them! Besides, we cannot rehabilitate dead people anymore, can we?” he said.

“The fight against illegal drugs must indeed be relentless, but the killings –either by the police or by masked vigilantes – must be stopped! This will remain as our stubborn and relentless plea,” he added.

According to a study conducted by Human Rights Watch (HRW), since Duterte’s first day as president on June 30, 2016 up to June 30 this year, more than 4,500 people were killed in police anti-drug operations. Thousands more were killed by unidentified assailants throughout the country.

The study also showed that police officers and their agents have routinely executed unarmed suspects during anti-drug operations. In many instances, evidence like illegal drugs and weapons were planted on the bodies of victims to justify their killings.

Most of the killings have occurred in impoverished areas of Metro Manila, but there has been an increase in killings in Cebu and other cities.

“Duterte’s promise to relentlessly pursue the war on drugs can only mean more suffering for poor urban Filipinos who account for most of the campaign’s victims. It can only mean the perpetuation of impunity and zero accountability,” said Carlos Conde, researcher of HRW.

For Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list, Duterte’s war on drugs is a failure. 

He noted that if the government will continue to treat the drug problem as purely criminal activities, the war on drugs will not succeed.

“We should go to the root causes of the problem and it’s not per se the using and handling illegal drugs,” he said.

“If there is injustice and poverty, even if you kill them, as long as there are still  root causes, the problem will just recur,” he added.

Alejano has also hit the Duterte government for creating a culture of impunity and violence. He said many policemen have opted to be away from the frontline and be reassigned at headquarters or go back to school.

“Because they are certain, once they couldn’t post accomplishments in illegal drugs, they would be relieved,” he added.  –  With Evelyn Macairan, Rhodina Villanueva, Jennifer Rendon

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