Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has warned against Mr. Duterte’s attacks on human rights defenders (HRDs) whom he called “enemies of the state” and thus make them vulnerable to harassment, violence and killings.
In her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 448, De Lima said no amount of rationalization from spokesperson Salvador Panelo could save the HRDs from imminent danger following Duterte’s malicious remark.
“Duterte once again displayed his patent disdain for human rights when he called human rights defenders as ‘enemies of the State’. Combine this label with his previous threats and this will most likely make human rights advocates targets for harm, harassment or even liquidation,” she said.
“No amount of rationalization would undo this conditioning of the President and his lackeys that could endanger the lives of HRDs once his fanatical followers, misguided security forces and death squads take Duterte’s cue seriously,” she added.
In his recent public statement, Mr. Duterte has once again branded HRDs as “enemies of the state” who are allegedly “out to destroy the government.”
It was not the first time for Duterte to attack HRDs, noting that several human rights groups and activists, including De Lima, have always been subject to his foul statements because they continue to speak out against his war on drugs that have killed more than 23,000 people.
The Lady Senator from Bicol cited a report that 85 HRDs have been murdered under the Duterte regime, including Benjamin Ramos, lawyer of farmer victims of the Sagay Massacre in Negros Occidental.
Contrary to Duterte’s statement, De Lima said the President is the real “enem[y] of the state” because he is an aspiring dictator who instigates extra-judicial killings, impunity and crass misogyny in the country.
“He has undermined and co-opted key democratic institutions to persecute critics like myself. Even plunderers were resurrected under Duterte’s watch. He even resorts to blasphemies and incitements to kill bishops in his intensified attacks versus the Church and the Catholic faith,” she said.
“His constant insults and threats versus UN functionaries have jeopardized our standing in the community of nations. Worst of all, he has treasonously sold us out to China for refusing to assert the Hague ruling in exchange for dubious loans,” she added.
Before looking at HRDs as enemies of the state, the former justice secretary said the Filipino public should realize that HRDs exist to “selflessly fight for the rights of others” while also fighting oppressors like Duterte.
“They arduously and persistently check and speak out against abuses of power of those in government, safeguarding people’s rights to live in dignity,” she said.
Amid Duterte’s tirades against HRDs, De Lima pointed out that the push for the passage of Senate Bill (SB) No. 1699 or the Human Rights Defenders Bill she authored becomes even more urgent and compelling.
Under SB 1699, De Lima sought to institutionalize and enforce state obligations for the protection of the rights of HRDs, saying that it is the responsibility of the government to conduct investigation whenever rights workers have been subjected to attacks and abuses.
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