LOCAL and international human rights groups on Tuesday called out the Philippines government for “sinister” claims they are being used by drug lords to fight the Duterte administration.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the accusations are the government’s “intimidation tactics” against them.
“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,” Deputy Director for Asia, Phelim Kine, said in a statement.
“Publicly linking human rights groups with ‘drug lords’ constitutes a sinister veiled threat.”
— Phelim Kine 林海 (@PhelimKine) March 27, 2018
In a statement on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the link between activists and drug dealers may be one reason why criticism of the campaign against illegal drugs is persistent.
“The attacks against the President’s war on drugs have been vicious and nonstop. We, therefore, do not discount the possibility that some human rights groups have become unwitting tools of drug lords to hinder the strides made by the administration,” he said, as reported by Rappler.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs has been heavily criticised by rights groups. Thousands of predominantly poor people have been killed in extrajudicial killings, either by police or armed vigilante gangs.
Drug lords have suffered huge financial losses since the campaign was unleashed 20 months ago and drug syndicates were trying to destabilise the government, Roque said. He did not offer any evidence to support the suggestion that rights groups were being used by drug lords.
On Tuesday, Roque doubled-down on his accusation, saying he stood by his earlier statement. He also told HRW not to “exaggerate and politicize the issue to get some media mileage and public attention.”
Local rights group Karapatan said the administration continues to invent “fantastic tales and labels” in an attempt to smear NGOs and “justify the extrajudicial killings, torture and illegal arrest of human rights activists and political dissenters.”
“Malacanang places the blame on human rights organizations for the Duterte administration’s failure to curb the illegal drug problem and accuses them of smearing the country’s reputation,” they said in a statement posted to Facebook.
The group also accused the government of “cooking up a scenario” that could justify the killing of activists in the same manner as suspected drug takers.
Earlier in the month, the government included a United Nations human rights expert and dozens of leftist activists on a terrorist watch list drawing criticism from the United Nations. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein questioned if Duterte needed of psychiatric evaluation for his behaviour.