Duterte rejects critical human rights report

  • 03/03/2017
Rodrigo Duterte (Getty)
Rodrigo Duterte (Getty)

The Philippines has dismissed a "thoughtless and irresponsible" report by Human Rights Watch which says President Rodrigo Duterte turned a blind eye to murders by police.

Mr Duterte's signature war on drugs was in the best interests of Filipinos and the New York-based group's allegations of a "campaign of extrajudicial execution" were not supported by evidence, said presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella.

The report documented 24 cases in which 32 people had been killed, where police accounts were starkly different from those of witnesses, who detailed "cold blooded murders" of unarmed drugs suspects.

Official records said the killings were in self-defence.

Human Rights Watch found no distinction between killings in police operations and those the authorities attributed to unknown gunmen or vigilantes. In some of those cases, the victims had hours earlier been in police custody, it added.

About 8000 people have died since the crackdown was launched in June last year.

Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Dionardo Carlos told Human Rights Watch "do not generalise" and said the 24 cases it looked into were insufficient to conclude that widespread abuses took place.

Human Rights Watch said though there was no evidence showing Mr Duterte or top officials planned or ordered extrajudicial killings, they could be implicated through incitement to violence, to instigate murder, and crimes against humanity.

Mr Duterte did not explicitly mention the report in a speech on Thursday, but he defended himself and his crackdown and said his actions were lawful.

"My order to the police and the military was very clear - go out, hunt for them, make them surrender so that you would know their connections, and we can gather more evidence," he said.

"But if they present a violent resistance, thereby placing your life in danger, son of a bitch, kill them. There's nothing illegal there. Why would you put me in prison?"