In his second State of the Nation Address, Duterte accused activists who have documented serious human rights violations linked to his drug war of “trivializing” the campaign by demanding respect for legal process. He also declared he would require presidential approval for any investigations by the official Commission on Human Rights of alleged security forces abuse and the Office of the Ombudsman. He also pledged to push for the reinstatement of the death penalty, justifying it as “not only about deterrence, but also retribution.”
Duterte’s drug war, which Human Rights Watch research has shown to be a police-led extrajudicial execution campaign, has resulted in the deaths of more than 7,000 people since he took office in June 2016. Duterte has glorified those deaths as proof of the “success” of anti-drug measures that have disproportionately targeted urban slum dwellers. Human Rights Watch has shown government claims that the deaths of suspected drug users and dealers were lawful are false. Interviews with witnesses and victims’ relatives and analysis of police records show a pattern of unlawful police conduct designed to paint a veneer of legality over extrajudicial executions.
More positively, Duterte expressed strong support for the enforcement of the country’s Reproductive Health Law and for women to be able to obtain family planning hormonal implants, the sale and distribution of which are currently under a Supreme Court restraining order. He also urged the full implementation of the Magna Carta of Women, a comprehensive women’s rights law, and made a commitment to increase assistance for overseas migrant workers. With respect to the environment, he promised to strictly check the operations of mining companies.
With President Duterte, it seems calls to enforce the law can share the same speech with exhortations to run roughshod over it.