Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte never had a problem being openly against basic human rights. But now, he's gone one step further by calling on the police to shoot any human rights activist daring to stand up to his devastating drug war.
“One of these days, you human rights groups, I will also investigate you. That’s the truth. For conspiracy,” Duterte said.
“If they are obstructing justice, you shoot them,” he then told the police. “So they can really see the kind of human rights.”
Now, Human Rights Watch is denouncing the Philippine president, adding that he should either withdraw his statement or face an investigation for inciting violence against peaceful rights advocates.
Phelim Kine, the organization's deputy Asia director, told reporters that the president's threat “is like painting a target on the backs of courageous people working to protect the rights and upholding the dignity of all Filipinos.”
He also added that, unless Duterte retracts his comments, there will be “more blood on his hands.”
This isn't the first time the president has threatened human rights advocates.
In 2016, Duterte threatened to kill them as well. But he's also gone beyond just targeting advocates themselves by once claiming he wanted to block a national commission on human rights investigation into abuses committed by Philippine security forces. Later however, he called his comments regarding the investigation a simple "joke." Regardless, his war on drugs is no laughing matter.
On Monday night alone, Duterte's police force killed 32 people in a series of raids near Manila. The president later said he approved the attack, adding that the Philippine security forces should “kill another 32 every day.”
“...then maybe we can reduce what ails this country,” he said.
Since Duterte took office in July 2016, about 3,500 “drug personalities” have been killed by official government forces. More than 2,000 others have been killed in drug-related crimes in the country, and thousands more have been murdered in what the government calls unexplained circumstances.
Duterte's lack of due process and his thirst for blood may have contributed to his nickname, “The Punisher.” But Duterte should know better than to threaten groups that could trigger the United Nations to probe into his bloody drug war. Hopefully, this latest act of intimidation will be met with bold action from the international community.
Unfortunately, President Donald Trump may stand in the way.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Ezra Acayan