By Eva Rian, International News Writer
As Duterte’s brutal war on drugs in the Philippines continues regardless of international criticism, the United Nations’ human rights monitor has apparently been officially invited to set up office in the country and join all anti-narcotic operations. After attending the wake of a slain policeman, Duterte told reporters that he would instruct police commanders to “not operate without a representative of the U.N. Human Rights Commission” and that all involved must “wear a camera” to ensure transparency of the process. Reuters reports that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) had no immediate response to Duterte’s remarks.
This kind of move marks an unusual departure from Duterte’s previous rhetoric on human rights; he has previously threatened to abolish the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights, according to The Diplomat. He also claimed to be unafraid of prison or the International Court of Justice and ultimately “willing to go to prison for the rest of [his] life” back in July during his annual state of the nation address, according to The Independent. Those statements align more with the promises Duterte made while on the campaign trail, as he decried drugs as a major impediment to the Philippines’ economic and social progress; the country has the highest rate of methamphetamine abuse, according to a 2012 United Nations report. Upon becoming president, he even encouraged the public to “go ahead and kill” drug addicts, which indeed was followed by a spread of vigilante attacks – extrajudicial killings that appear to be government-endorsed.
Even after threatening any police personally involved in the drug trade–going as far as to offer bounties of forty thousand US dollars per head, according to NPR–the Philippine National Police has followed his lead with a list of those allegedly involved in the drug trade, including high-level influential figures such as politicians. Even though human-rights groups have estimated numbers of police killings between 7,000 and 13,000, with the Human Rights Watch describing bodies found “wrapped in packing tape, […] bullet-ridden or bearing stab wounds and other signs of torture,“ according to The Independent, public support for Duterte has been widespread until recently, the Atlantic notes. Security footage of the recent police killing of teenager Kian Lloyd Delos Santos appeared to verify stories of police indiscriminately firing on people from poor neighborhoods and planting guns to make it appear as if they fired on police. The tide of public opinion changed as prominent Catholic leaders spoke out against the killings and even Duterte himself acknowledged the possibility of police wrongdoing. Nonetheless, Duterte was quick to criticize priests for condemning the government while doing little to help in the drug war, saying he would give his narcolist to priests and bishops and ask them to talk to drug personalities included in it.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 26th print edition.
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