MANILA – The French Embassy in Manila on Wednesday corrected President Duterte on his interpretation of French criminal law, particularly his assertion earlier this week that in France suspects are presumed guilty until proven innocent.
The embassy released a statement, saying: “We have to point out that, as in the Philippines, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is at the core of the French judicial system, based on the principles enshrined in the French Declaration of Human and Civic Rights of August 26, 1789.”
President Duterte had claimed the opposite as he let loose an expletive-laden tirade against Agnes Callamard, a French citizen, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Callamard had expressed renewed concern over President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, particularly after Philippine police killed 17-year-old Kian delos Santos. The UN rapporteur said rule of law was becoming a casualty in the Philippines’ reckless campaign to weed out the drug problem, and again echoed sentiments expressed by human rights activists that thousands of deaths point to a need to properly investigate the methods of the police, the flouting of due process for suspects, and the Duterte’s own accountability in these given his goading of more aggressive operations.
President Duterte said Callamard was meddling in Philippine affairs, and then said she should take note that killings are taking place elsewhere, including developed countries. On the questions about due process and rule of law, Duterte stressed that the Philippines upholds the principle that suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But he then blasted Callamard and in the process made this statement: “French? [Expletive]. She should just go home. They can detain a person almost indefinitely, under French law. And the French law says you are guilty, and you have to prove your innocence. Here, the presumption is you are innocent.”
The French Embassy on Wednesday stressed this is not true. Their short statement concluded: “France strongly believes in the importance of the rule of law, due process and respect for human rights in all countries, including the Philippines.”