Duterte defends drug war at United Nations

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday defended his deadly war on drugs before the United Nations (UN), accusing some groups of trying to “weaponize” human rights to discredit him.

“The Philippines will continue to protect the human rights of its people especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality and terrorism,” he said in a speech before a virtual roster of world leaders at the UN General Assembly.

The President called out unnamed groups for trying to “discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected government which in its last two years, still enjoy the same widespread approval and support.”

“These detractors pass themselves off as human rights advocates while preying on the most vulnerable humans; even using children as soldiers or human shields in encounters,” he said in a veiled reference to Maoist rebels. “Even schools are not spared from their malevolence and anti-government propaganda.”

“They hide their misdeeds under the blanket of human rights but the blood oozes through.”

Mr. Duterte sought “open dialogue and constructive engagement” with the UN as a key to move forward on the issue of human rights.

“But these must be done in full respect of the principles of objectivity, noninterference, non-selectivity and genuine dialogue. These are the fundamental bases for productive international cooperation on human rights,” he added.

Duterte had in the past threatened to cut ties with the UN and European Union (EU), accusing these of interference.

More than 7,000 drug suspects have died under Mr. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, according to police data, but human rights groups have placed the number at almost 30,000.

The government would boost its anti-drug campaign, presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque told CNN Philippines on Wednesday.

“There is absolutely no legal principle under international law that prohibits states from acting on the scourge of drugs, illegal drugs and terrorism. It is a valid sovereign act,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez

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