Karapatan’s reaction on President Rodrigo Duterte’s 5th SONA

Mr. President, if indeed you do not evade your human rights obligations, why opt out of the Rome Statute when investigation on your alleged crimes against humanity was initiated? Why do you continue to malign and undermine United Nations Special Procedures who seek to visit and investigate the rights violations in the Philippines? Why did you not allow United Nations High Commissioner Bachelet to come in the country to directly talk to victims? 

Human rights obligations are not concepts which are merely written on paper. Human and people's rights should be respected, protected and realised in the daily lives of people—and these are not being done under your administration. You spit on, trample upon, and deride the recognition of even the most basic of rights: the right to live, with dignity. It is ironic that as you declare that you will not dodge the government's human rights obligations, you announced your intent to push for the reimposition of the death penalty through lethal injection in drug-related offenses—a move which is strongly discouraged by United Nations human rights bodies. 

Mr. President, you propagate fake news when you say that there are no abuses during martial law in Mindanao. Paramilitaries who killed Lumad student Obello Bay-ao have been charged, soldiers peppered a community of Lumad in Lake Sebu with bullets resulting in the massacre of seven of their leaders, and our former colleague in Karapatan, human rights worker Honey Mae Suazo, had remained missing since November 2019. Thousands have been displaced and violated when Marawi was bombed and they are still unable to return to their lives and homes.

If martial law in Mindanao alone has already led to countless and brutal human rights violations, your scheme of deploying the military in so-called barangay development programs as part of the "whole-of-nation" counterinsurgency approach will only result to the further militarization of civilian bureacracy down to the barangay level—a tactic not very far from your campaign of mass murder under the drug war—and give way to more military and police abuses in line with their implementation. We have no doubt your "whole-of-nation" approach will only target communities, activists and dissidents under the guise of protecting "national security." We are not fools, especially now that the Anti-Terrorism Act is in place.

From your hypocrisy on protecting and upholding human rights obligations while blatantly violating them to your own admission of playing a major role in the closure of ABS-CBN, Mr. President, you have only further unmasked yourself as a dictator and your regime as a de facto martial law. Your promise to protect human rights is hollow like all your promises of change to the people—and we will not stop in resisting your fascist regime until you and your militarist cohorts and loyalist oligarchs are held accountable.