Int'l watchdog reacts to Duterte's plan to hold human rights summit

By Audrey Morallo


President Rodrigo Duterte disembarks from the Philippine Airlines chartered flight upon his arrival at the Da Nang International Airport in Vietnam on Nov. 8, 2017 for his participation in the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting. PPD/Robinson Ninal

MANILA, Philippines — Guests should not be invited to a dirty house, especially when its head does not have "moral authority."

A London-based rights watchdog on Saturday shot down President Rodrigo Duterte's proposal to convene an international human rights summit in the Philippines, as he complained about being singled out by the international community for drug-related killings and abuses.

"We should have a summit only on human rights. But we should call all," said Duterte, who has become famous for his acid tongue comments.

READ:  Trump to raise human rights with Duterte at ASEAN summit

Jose Noel Olano, section director of Amnesty International in the Philippines said Duterte's offer was missing the point of the criticisms of human rights watchdogs and activists.

"President Duterte is missing the point—we are not calling for a summit," Olano said.

The Philippine section director also stressed that with the current rights situation in the Philippines Duterte does not have the credibility to host such a summit.

"We do not invite guests to our house when our house is dirty. President Duterte should clean up," he stressed at a media conference in Manila on the eve of a regional summit expected to be attended by almost two dozen heads of states in the Indo-Pacific region.

Among these dignitaries is US President Donald Trump whom the watchdog wants to be more forceful in confronting the Philippine leader over his drug war's mounting killings and abuses.

READ:  Duterte to Trump: ‘Lay off’ topic of human rights

Olano said that Trump's meeting with Duterte would serve as a "crucial test" of the US government's commitment to upholding and defending human rights.

"Trump must not keep ignoring the grave human rights situation in the Philippines," he said.

"When he comes face to face with President Duterte, he'll be meeting a man whose policies are responsible for thousands of unlawful killings, including dozens of children and extrajudicial executions of dozen others," Olano said, adding that these deaths could lead to Duterte's prosecution for crimes against humanity.

READ:  Human rights group slams Duterte's 'tyrannical' ways

Olano also urged Trump use this opportunity to call out Duterte and other leaders of Southeast Asia for the "horrifying human rights abuses that the region is facing" such as the killings of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and political repression on Cambodia.

Trump, Duterte confrontation on human rights unlikely

When asked about the chances of Trump doing this, Gary King of Amnesty International USA admitted that he did not expect this to happen.

King, who has extensive experience documenting rights abuses in the Philippines since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, said that Manila's government did not have authority to commit extrajudicial killings.


Leaders pose during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. Front left to right; China's President Xi Jinping, Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, back left to right; Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Donald Trump. Jorge Silva/Pool Photo via AP

He however conceded that Trump might get just a flick on the wrist if he failed to raise human rights issues in the country as he was at odds with his fellow Republicans and the opposition Democrats might not speak strongly about it.

Olano stressed that Duterte's offer to host an international human rights summit would not erase the thousands of deaths attributed to his brutal campaign against illegal drugs.

He added that if such a meeting would be held the proper venue would be the UN Human Rights Council, but unfortunately Manila rejected most of the recommendations of the panel that would address rights concerns in the country.

Duterte is accused of orchestrating a ferocious campaign to combat narcotics in the country which groups have claimed has led to mounting numbers of drug-related deaths. Estimates put the number between 7,000 to 12,000, but government authorities reject this, claiming that most of these are still under investigation.

READ: Duterte among 'strongman' leaders Trump has praised

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