A statement released Monday by Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch Asia Division Deputy Director, said President Rodrigo Duterte “and his minions are misguided if they believe that gross intimidation tactics can derail moves toward ‘drug war’ accountability by the International Criminal Court and the UN.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque had alleged on Monday that “some human rights groups have become unwitting tools of drug lords to hinder the strides made by the administration.”
That pronouncement echoed recent comments by Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano equating efforts of some unnamed human rights organizations to stop President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous “war on drugs” with “being used by drug lords.”
Such public statements, according to HRW, “are just the latest salvo in the government campaign of denial and distraction to dodge growing international outrage against Duterte’s “war on drugs.”
Publicly linking human rights groups with “drug lords”, HRW further said, constitutes a sinister veiled threat in a country in which government-compiled “watch lists” of suspected drug users and drug dealers have been linked to many of the “drug war’s” thousands of victims.
“This is a familiar government tactic. Earlier this month the government put at grave risk more than 600 people – among them a United Nations human rights expert and dozens of leftist activists – by labeling them as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).”
These allegations are more than just gratuitous slurs aimed at undermining the integrity of already beleaguered Philippine human rights activists pushing back against the Duterte government’s systematic attack on rule of law and its instigation and incitement of possible crimes against humanity, HRW added.