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Value Human Lives by Respecting Human Rights

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on July 27, 2018 02:14

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“Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives.” -- Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines

Authoritarians, in general, do not respect human rights, let alone value human lives. We only look at history, say, the twentieth-century despots from Hitler to Mao, Mussolini to Mugabe, Marcos to Gadaffi. Therefore, expect a leader who portrayed a “strongman” image to violate human rights, and carry out killings with impunity.

Of course, I’m talking about Rodrigo Duterte, who on Monday, July 23, delivered a cuss-free speech for the first time in his career as president. Everyone was surprised that his state of the nation address was right on the script, not peppered with foul language. It was reminiscent of the speeches of past presidents -- clean, coherent, and well-written.

Before Duterte delivered his annual report to the people, the events in Congress were a reflection of the state of his presidency: chaotic and full of intrigues. In-fighting and gerrymandering among the members of the House of Representatives delayed the president’s scheduled speech. There were the missing mace, dead microphones and shouting matches, providing the analysts, commentators, comedians, and netizens with plenty of materials.

Appearing visibly weak, tired and unenergetic, Duterte opened his speech with a defense of his notorious war against illegal drugs by saying that it’s “far from over.” He argued his campaign “resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs worth millions of pesos,” drugs that could have destroyed the lives of drug users, their families and communities. He also warned that his narco war would be “relentless and chilling,” reiterating his stance to shoot those who resist arrest, which received condemnation from human rights activists, and that he could not be “dissuaded from continuing this fight.”

He said with a conviction of a strong man, “Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives.” It is as if the two are separate entities, a false dichotomy that is typically invoked by a human rights violator. If he’s concerned about human lives, then respecting people’s rights to life and fair trial in the courts of law should be his priority. He was elected to uphold the people’s constitutional rights he’s sworn to protect.

If he valued human lives, he should have not denied those small-time drug peddlers and users a fair trial in the courts. Over 20,000 folks have perished since the president’s drug war campaign began. And by detaining a human rights champion in Senator Leila de Lima on trumped up charges, linking her to the illegal drug trade, Duterte’s words were like that of clanging cymbals, signifying nothing.

It is human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that make a person human. Thus, Duterte’s dichotomy pitting “human rights” and “human lives” into a stoush to justify the killings and the detention of his critics is but outright idiocy. It does not make any sense at all. As Jose W. Diokno, founding chair of the country’s Commission on Human Rights, said: “No cause is more worthy than the cause of human rights... Deny them and you deny man’s humanity.”

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on July 27, 2018 02:14

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Source: NBC New York

U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson, left, is welcomed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila, Philippines, on...

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