In its 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released this week, the US State Department said summary executions have been the “chief human rights concern in the country for many years,” amid rising impunity following a dramatic surge in drug-related slays.
The STAR/Miguel De Guzman, File photo
Ignoring ‘usual criticisms’: Palace says to focus on ‘positive aspects’ of US rights report
(philstar.com) - March 16, 2019 - 11:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Saturday said it prefers to “focus on the positive aspects” and ignore the “negative observations” in the US State Department’s latest global rights report, which found that extrajudicial killings remain the top human rights concern in the Philippines.

In its 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released this week, the US State Department said summary executions have been the “chief human rights concern in the country for many years,” amid rising impunity following a dramatic surge in drug-related slays.

Commenting on Washington’s assessment of the human rights situation in the Philippines, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo urged the public to read the whole report so “they may not be deceived by intended negative and false commentaries.”

“While the political opposition and detractors of the president, including some of those in the mainstream media, would dwell on what they consider as negative observations and milk the same for their political purposes, we prefer to see the glass half full and focus on positive aspects of the report,” Panelo said.

“While the report also cites the usual criticisms against the administration, we reiterate that the president and this government have never sponsored any form of violation of human rights nor will they tolerate them,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte, a former city mayor, beat his more moneyed rivals and won the race to Malacañang in 2016 promising to eradicate crime and solve his country’s drug menace in three to six months.

But human rights watchdogs at home and abroad say most of the fatalities in the government’s anti-narcotics drive are extrajudicial killings committed by cops, accusing Duterte of inciting violence and “steamrolling the rule of law.”

Last month, Duterte said his war on drugs would be “harsher” and “bloodier” in the coming days, even as he conceded that "nobody can solve it [drug problem] in due time."

In the same report, the US State Department flagged the Duterte administration’s defiance of international calls for an external probe into the drug war, saying government officials “were under pressure not to cooperate or respond to the views of international human rights organizations.”

Washington also said journalists in the Philippines who have been critical in their coverage of the government continue to experience harassment and threats of violence.

“The observance of the freedom of expression in this country is such that fabricated portrayals on the war on drugs find print and aired repeatedly reaching the outside world some of which recklessly and responsibly believe them without the benefit of validation,” Panelo said.

“We note that there may be isolated accounts of abuse on the part of its law enforcers. We continue to address them and hold the transgressors accountable,” he added.

The US report’s release comes at a time of improving Manila-Washington ties, as US President Donald Trump cozies up to Duterte, whom the American leader said was doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem."

In a departure from previous policy of past American leaders to call out human rights violators, Trump had also reportedly said that “Filipinos don’t have drug problem [because] they just kill them.” — Ian Nicolas Cigaral

RODRIGO DUTERTE WAR ON DRUGS
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