On Human Dignity & Respect

President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s unprecedented reforms, massive ‘cleaning’ campaign against drugs and criminality, tough rhetoric statements, unwise comments on national and international issues, and unpredictable government policies have rather warranted, not public order, but spurred widespread uncertainties, political struggles, and diplomatic conflicts.

While President Duterte’s promised six months to eradicate drugs in the country is gaining momentum with hundreds of thousands of drug suspects surrendering to police authorities, human rights groups are, however, alarmed with the increasing number of suspects killed in drug-related summary executions, vigilante killings and police operations. Months since he assumed the country’s top government post, the toll of drug-related deaths has reached over thousands constituting about two-thirds killed in police operations while one-thirds accounted to unidentified person or extra-judicial killings.

His intensive campaign may seem to work as a deterring factor in the commission of crimes and proliferation of drugs, however, the absence of a clear restraint of innocence and guilt is disturbing and questionable since justification rests solely on the verdict of unidentified person, possible false information and lapses in the investigation process.

His intensive campaign may seem to work as a deterring factor in the commission of crimes and proliferation of drugs, however, the absence of a clear restraint of innocence and guilt is disturbing and questionable since justification rests solely on the verdict of unidentified person, possible false information and lapses in the investigation process.

Further, the government’s mere rhetoric statements condemning extra-judicial killings and human rights violation have not taken any further steps in ending bloodsheds in the streets in which majority of the victims belong to the poor class. And who would know a portion of them or even a single person killed in this massive extra-judicial killing may have been innocent?

Article II Section 11 of the Philippine Constitution provides that “the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.” Furthermore, the Constitution also stipulates that “no person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law” which manifests that “the accused shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty.” Remember that these noble provisions instituted in the Constitution in the aftermath of the peaceful EDSA People Power Revolution come as a result of loud calls of thousands of victims of human rights violation during the dark nights of martial law years.

Yet, while it is not in the priority of police authorities to go after vigilante groups whom they believe are members of drug syndicates, this is sending a wrong signal that justice can just be exercised in the streets by some unknown persons. But, who wouldn’t when the President of the Republic of the Philippines has freely and publicly encouraged death of drug suspects and ‘shoot-to-kill’ police operations?

This untoward manner of the highest government official, his degrading comments such as the joking over the rape of an Australian woman, naming of public officials involved in drugs who may be innocent, the lambasting of long-time ally and disregarding international sympathizers is definitely undignified as a public servant especially that the youth may idolize these actions.

Nevertheless, the deaths without due process deprives drug suspects their basic right of human dignity as to life and liberty and the right to be presumed innocent which is safeguarded by the noble intention the Philippine Constitution has lived for. The unwise comments against long-time allies, economic and political relations, and the mere rhetoric statements are clear disregard of established national values and principles. The Filipinos are a people of love, freedom, respect and nationalism.#

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