Malacañang on Thursday, November 9, reiterated its “firm” adherence to the rule of law after a United States House of Representatives caucus urged U.S. President Donald Trump to raise human rights concerns with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during their upcoming meeting.
In a 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 said it would not issue a further comment on Washington’s internal affairs, as it noted that Duterte and Trump share a good relationship.
Roque 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 are also expected to have an encounter at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vietnam this week.
U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Illinois) and James McGovern (D-Massachusetts), co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, recently 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.”
In a letter dated November 2, the congressmen cited the results of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing early this year, which showed that police have killed 7,000 suspected drug dealers “without charges or trial” in the Philippines.
Figures from the government’s #RealNumbersPH campaign, however, showed that only 3,967 drug suspects were killed in legitimate police operations since July 2016.
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.
In a media briefing on Wednesday, November 8, Duterte said he wanted Trump to “lay off” topic of human rights during their first bilateral meeting.
“Human rights? Lay off, that is none of your business,” Duterte said before his flight to Da Nang, Vietnam, for the APEC Summit.