“Hitler massacred three million Jews … there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” Such statements by Duterte has alarmed many both domestically and internationally.
While the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2016 noted that human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings and the climate of impunity were already present during previous administrations, “the killings in the ‘war on drugs’ as well as the possible reintroduction of the death penalty were the focus of the EU’s attention.”
“The second half of the year was marked by a serious deterioration in respect for the right to life, due process and the rule of law,” the report said.
The EU emphasized that Duterte’s “statements and actions have seemingly encouraged the police to take an aggressive approach in dealing with drug users and pushers” as the administration’s war on drugs led to the killings of thousands of people.
The report reiterated a statement released by a delegation of EU legislators who visited the country in July and expressed concern over bills pending in Congress, such as the proposed lowering of the age of criminal responsibility in the country from 15 to nine years and the restoration of the death penalty.
But it also cited some positive developments under the Duterte administration, including “new momentum” in the peace process in the southern Philippines’ Mindanao islands, which was “aimed at lifting people out of poverty”.
According to a survey conducted between 2015 and 2016 by Resources, Environment and Economics Center for Studies Incorporated, there are 1.8 million drug users in the Philippines.
The EU in its report urged the Duterte administration to abide by the law in the conduct of its flagship anti-drug campaign.
“The Philippine government needs to ensure that the fight against drug crimes is conducted within the law, including the right to due process and safeguarding of the basic human rights of citizens of the Philippines, including the right to life, and that it respects the proportionality principle,” the statement said.
“This naturally includes the rights of human rights defenders. As a State Party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Philippines is obliged to respect its obligations under international law,” it added.
The EU’s annual report came less than a week after the Philippines announced it would no longer accept grants from the body which are offered with conditions.
Manila asserted that “we’re supposed to be an independent nation” and would not allow undue interference in the country’s domestic affairs.