Amidst the criticism from international rights groups over the deadly crackdown on narcotics in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has volunteered to host an international summit on protecting human rights.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, November 9, Duterte said he wanted the Philippines to host a world summit to discuss the human rights violations in all countries—and not just those in his country.
“We should have a summit only on human rights. But we should call all,” Duterte said in a media briefing in Vietnam, where he is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.
He added, “Let’s have a summit of how we can protect the human rights for all human race… I will volunteer to make the Philippines the venue.”
Duterte, who assumed the presidency in June last year, has been under fire for the alleged summary killings and human rights abuses under his anti-illegal drugs campaign.
Human rights organizations have cited around 7,000 deaths since its launch; however, the government put the figures down to only around 3,900 with zero cases of extrajudicial killings.
The Philippine president lamented how critics have seemed to “zero in” on him when it comes to human rights issues. He chided his critics for being oblivious to the violations of other nations.
Citing the bombings of schools and civilians in the Middle East by the governments of the United States, France, and Russia, Duterte insisted that all the human rights violations committed by every government must be investigated.
“Let us investigate all violations of human rights committed by all governments. I said, just because it happened 40 years ago, it happened 100 years ago. When it was wrong then, it is definitely still wrong now,” he remarked.
He added that human rights victims are also invited to the country “to come and air their gripe or grievances.”
When asked to clarify if he was serious about holding the summit, Duterte said he will “consult first with the heads of state.”
‘Investigate me, I’ll slap you’
Duterte also berated United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on summary executions Agnes Callamard for supposedly failing to speak out against rights violations in other parts of the globe.
Addressing Callamard, Duterte said, “I have not heard you comment on the so many killings, the victims of bombs and of violence there in the Middle East.”
He went on to say, “What have you been doing all the time? Why are you so fascinated with drugs? And you also should take note that there are plenty of Americans who died because of drugs.”
In a separate speech before the Filipino community in Vietnam, Duterte also warned Callamard that he will “slap” her if she insisted on probing his drug war. He claimed that he would not even get a fair investigation from her.
“Kung imbestigahin mo ako, sampalin kita (If you investigate me, I will slap you),” the president said.
Callamard, a critic of the Duterte’s drug war, has repeatedly expressed intent to visit the Philippines and investigate “all unlawful deaths” that transpired under what she described as “cruel” campaign.
But Duterte claimed that Callamard does not even have the capacity of giving him a fair probe as she herself supposedly contradicts UN’s own report.
According to him, Callamard consulted a doctor who affirmed that “the use of drugs is harmless.”
Duterte said such claim contradicts a UN report titled “International Narcotics Control Board Precursors and Chemicals Frequently Used in the Illicit Manufacture of Narcotic Drugs and Tropic Substances 2014.”
“How can I get a fair hearing if you yourself, who does not even read the publications of your mother organizations, of the United Nations?” the Philippine president asked.
“Eh mismong study ninyo ayaw ninyong paniwalaan tapos ako kulungin ninyo because of extrajudicial killing (You would not even believe your own study but you want to detain me because of extrajudicial killing),” he continued.
Last year, Duterte invited Callamard to visit the Philippines under three conditions, which include allowing him to question her in a public debate. But Callamard refused, saying it violates the UN protocol for country visits.
PH ‘firm’ in adhering rule of law
In a separate statement, Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque affirmed that the Philippine government remains committed to protecting human rights.
“We reiterate that our adherence to the rule of law remains as firm as ever, as is our commitment to the protection of human rights,” he said.
Roque, also a human rights lawyer, said that the Philippine government was investigating allegations of extrajudicial killings (EJKs), as well as homicide cases with drug-related motives.
“Ongoing investigations include the conduct of public congressional hearings. All these are undertaken precisely to ensure that due process and the rule of law prevails despite the Philippines’ significant drug problem,” the Palace official added.
Malacañang issued the statement after a United States House of Representatives caucus urged U.S. President Donald Trump to raise concerns about human rights with Duterte during their upcoming meeting.
Roque said he would not further comment on Washington’s internal affairs, as he noted that Duterte and Trump share a good relationship. He added that the two leaders could also have “candid and productive discussions on matters of shared interest.”
Duterte and Trump are expected to have a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of sidelines of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila next week. They were also expected to have an encounter at the APEC Summit.
In a letter dated November 2, Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Illinois) and James McGovern (D-Massachusetts), co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, urged Trump to “impress upon President Duterte the United States’ profound concern over reported extra-judicial killings associated with the Philippine government’s war on drugs.”
The congressmen cited the results of the commission hearing early this year, which showed that police have killed 7,000 suspected drug dealers “without charges or trial” in the Philippines.
While Hultgren and McGovern acknowledged that the Philippines serves as a key player in resolving conflicts in the region, they insisted that the U.S. must remain a “champion of human rights.”
They stressed that it is the “obligation” of the U.S. “to advocate for and defend those human rights as set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
“Human rights are fundamental. Every government should afford their citizens the protection and due process of the law,” the congressmen said.
“The Philippines is a valuable ally of the United States and major recipient of U.S. aid. For these reasons, it is paramount that human rights violations not be the consequences of the Philippines’ ‘war on drugs,’” they added.
But Duterte, in a news briefing before his departure for the APEC Summit, said he wanted Trump to “lay off” topic of human rights during their first bilateral meeting.