Duterte still defiant on draconian drug war

The Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte met in Manila on Aug. 8 with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and came away gloating that the new administration in Washington is unconcerned with his blood-drenched "war on drugs," that has left perhaps 8,000 dead since he took office just over a year ago. "Human rights, son of a bitch. Policemen and soldiers have died on me," he sneered to reporters at a press conference after the Tillerson meeting, adding an open threat: "Human rights—you go there and you might have a bomb dropped on your head."

That's no joke coming from the head of a regime that is already accused of killing journalists.

Duterte claimed that representatives of both the US and Australia "have considerably toned down" their criticisms of his human rights record. Duterte held back-to-back meetings with Tillerson and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at his presidential palace during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional forum in Manila. He said the discussions with both men revolved "mostly" around counter-terrorism, and that human rights came up "only in passing."

Fortunately, not everyone has dropped the ball on human rights concerns in the Philippines. Just a week before the ASEAN meeting, a group of UN experts for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a press release urging the Philippine government to address reports of grave rights violations—including the murder of children by security forces.

"We are witnessing severe, multiple human rights violations, especially against indigenous peoples and human rights defenders," the statement stressed. "Children are not being spared and continue to be at high risk in a climate of prevailing violence. We are shocked by the increasing levels of violence, killings, intimidation and harassment being suffered by human rights defenders—including those protecting indigenous peoples, trade union organizers, farmers and their family members."

"Allegations of summary executions, including of children, are also on the rise," the statement further charged. "All these cases must be investigated thoroughly and perpetrators should be brought to justice."