PHILIPPINES President Rodrigo Duterte has claimed his country is willing to host a “world summit” on human rights, despite widespread criticism over his administration’s deadly war on drugs and undermining of the national human rights commission.
The firebrand leader, who spoke in a news conference late on Thursday while in Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, said the summit should focus on human rights violations not just in the Philippines but globally.
At least 7,000 people have been killed in anti-drug operations since Duterte took power last June according to official police statistics, with some rights groups estimating the figure is more like 13,000.
— Presidential Comm (@PresidentialCom) November 10, 2017
Critics say executions are taking place with zero accountability, allegations that the Philippines police reject.
“Let’s have a summit of how we can protect human rights for all human race,” Duterte said shortly after meeting with the Filipino community in Vietnam, where he also renewed his attacks against United Nations human rights expert Agnes Callamard.
“What makes the death of people in the Philippines more important than the rest of the children in the world that were massacred and killed?” he asked. Duterte said all victims of human rights violations are welcome to attend the summit and air their grievances.
Duterte reiterated his threat to slap Callamard if she investigates him for the rising death toll in his war on drugs and would ask her why she has made no comments on the victims of bombings and violence in the Middle East.
“What have you been doing all the time? Why are you so fascinated with drugs?”
The Duterte administration has also been open in its criticism of the national human rights commission which is investigating the drugs war, with the president previously threatening to abolish it completely.
In September, the Duterte-controlled Philippines lower house voted to allocate a budget of less than US$20 to the independent body, a decision Callamard described as “reprehensible and unconscionable.” The budget was later reinstated after an appeal from the commission.
On Thursday, Duterte also threatened to ban two American lawmakers from coming to Manila after they criticised US President Donald Trump for inviting him to visit the United States.
“If you do not like me, I do not like you. We’re even,” he said without naming the lawmakers. Democratic Rep. James McGovern and Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren had called on Trump to highlight the human rights situation in the Philippines in his upcoming visit to Manila.
“I will tell them, you are too presumptuous. What made you think that I am even planning or thinking about visiting your country?”
Additional reporting by Reuters