MALACAÑANG blamed on President Rodrigo Duterte’s “frustration” his reported threat to kill human rights advocates who are sympathetic to the country’s drug personalities.
The Palace insisted that Duterte’s remark was among his pronoucements that should not be taken seriously.
Duterte Monday night lashed out anew against the critics of his drug war, saying he would also kill human rights workers for being a factor should the drug menace worsen.
“Sabi ng human rights pinapatay ko raw. Sabi ko, ‘Sige na maghinto tayo, paramihin natin. Para ‘pag panahon ng harvest time mas marami na tuloy mamatay, isali ko na kayo kasi kayo ang nagpalaki eh,’”Duterte said, drawing laughter from his audience in Malacañang.
“Well, I said maybe whether you supported me or not, I am your President and I will never allow my country to be thrown to the dogs,” he added.
Malacañang however said Duterte’s statement should not be taken as a threat.
Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan said Duterte’s statement could have been said out of frustration.
“There is no threat at all. As you have been covering the President, you know his frustrations with working in government as well as with, you know, how being President,” Ablan said at a Palace briefing.
“So, I think his statement last Monday was just another expression of his frustration on the difficulty of running the country,” he added.
Ablan also pointed out that Duterte’s critics remain to be free to voice out their concerns against the administration.
“But in a way is his statement a statement on curtailing media or his critics or curtailing free speech, none of that because as you know you are asking questions here, anyone can post a report. So there is no censorship,” Ablan said.
He urged citizens to consider Duterte’s actions more than his words.
“We appeal that citizens decide on the President’s actions more than his talk,” Ablan said.
“Although he may have said last Monday, I have not verified that statement, as of now, you know, there is no censorship at all in media or in human rights groups or in any those who protest against the government,” he added.
“We respect the right to assemble. We respect free speech. We appeal that citizens observe that the President walks the walk rather than his talk,” Ablan said.
Duterte earlier explained how narco-politics had dawned on the country because of Senator Leila de Lima and her alleged links to the proliferation of drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prisons.
The President said human rights advocates had been pinning him down for threatening to kill drug personalities since he served as a mayor of Davao City.
“Have no doubt about it. If you destroy the generation of Filipinos coming up to replace us, I will kill you. Simple as that. Kung hindi maintindihan ng Human Rights, kung ganoon kayo ka-bugok, ‘eh wala akong magawa para sa inyo,” he said.
“When is it or when was it a crime to say I will kill you if -- in protecting my country? Kailan pa naging kasalanan ‘yung sabihin mo kapag ginalaw mo ‘yung bayan ko pati ‘yung mga anak ko, papatayin kita? Ito namang -- naku, Diyos ko,” Duterte said.
Being the country’s leader, President Duterte’s words must be taken seriously including his supposed threat to “kill” human rights activists, said Sen. Leila de Lima.
She said the latest statements of the President “to the effect that he will be killing human rights activists soon and that he will pull out the country as a treaty party to the Rome Statute of the ICC (International Criminal Court) are only some of the threats coming from him at present.”
“We cannot take these statements as mere jokes. Action must be taken to assure that the government respects and abides by the human rights of anyone. Human rights must be defended strongly now more than ever,” said De Lima.
“We must defend those who defend human rights in this country and oppose all initiatives and actions that would make international accountability for HR violations and abuses difficult,” she said
De Lima, former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), said the President “must not be allowed to kill human rights activists and absolve himself of their murder by pulling out of the ICC.”
“His impunity, both in words and actions, must be put to a stop and end soon. There is no other way to do this but to continue to fight for what is right, and to defeat the great evil that now pervades in this country,” she said.
With Bernadette E. Tamayo