Duterte says he's ready to face human rights accusations after presidency

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 3) — With less than two years left in his term, President Rodrigo Duterte said he is ready to face any possible cases over his bloody war on drugs, confident he can defend himself.

“’Yang human rights, ako ang magharap niyan, hindi naman kayo,” Duterte said, addressing policemen and other uniformed personnel at an event of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Thursday. He led the destruction of seized drugs and paraphernalia said to be worth more than ₱7.5 billion.

[Translation: I will face human rights accusations, not you.]

Kung saan nila gustong… Sabi ko pagkatapos ko ng Presidente, fine. Sayang naman pinagpraktisan ko sa korte, p***** *** kung hindi ko malibre ang sarili ko,” the President, a former prosecutor, added.

[Translation: Wherever they want… I said after I step down as President, fine. It would be a pity if despite my years of court practice I won't be able to defend myself.]

Although there is no provision in the 1987 Constitution granting the incumbent President immunity from suit, this has been established through jurisprudence. Duterte's predecessors, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III, were both charged with various offenses after their term. Arroyo was detained for four years until she was acquitted of plunder in 2016.

Duterte reiterated he does not care what human rights groups say on the killings and alleged human rights violations in his anti-drug campaign. He urged authorities to be as dauntless.

Wag kayong matakot. Ako ang haharap, akin ‘yan,” Duterte said. “As far as you can, really do [it] in accordance with law pero kapag alanganin ka or you suspect na maunahan ka, patayin mo na para tapos na. One less idiot in this world.”

[Translation: Do not fear. I will face them, it’s mine. As far as you can, really do [it] in accordance with law, but if you think you’re at risk, or you suspect that the suspect will fire at you, kill him so it’s over. One less idiot in this world.]

Duterte stressed, however, that he’s not telling uniformed personnel to kill “intentionally,” only when their lives are in danger, claiming that all drug suspects have firearms.

But in examining 25 anti-drug operations that left 45 people dead in Metro Manila, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights found that the guns the police recovered from victims in different locations bore the same serial numbers.

READ: UN rights chief says Duterte drug war without regard for due process, human rights

“The pattern suggests planting of evidence by police officers and casts doubt on the self-defence narrative, implying that the victims were likely unarmed when killed,” the office said in its report to the UN Human Rights Council.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet flagged the "widespread and systematic" killings and later called for an end to policies and rhetoric that were said to have led to the killings.

The 47-member council, however, took a softer approach, approving technical assistance to the Philippines amid calls for an international, independent, and impartial investigation.

In February 2018, the International Criminal Court launched a preliminary examination which will determine whether or not it will proceed with a formal investigation into alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Some experts say this could lead to a warrant of arrest for Duterte.

Separately, the European Parliament is seeking an end to the killings and abuses in the country. It recently adopted a resolution pushing for immediate trade sanctions "in the absence of any substantial improvement and willingness to cooperate" on the part of Philippine authorities.

Government data shows 5,903 suspects have been killed in anti-drug operations, but local and international human rights groups say thousands more may have died in alleged extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.