'Gay or pae­dophile?' Philip­pines Duterte at­tacks rights chief over drug war crit­i­cism

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines -

Philip­pine pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte on Satur­day asked the head of the coun­try’s Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights (CHR) if he was a pae­dophile for fo­cus­ing on the killing of teenagers in the gov­ern­ment’s bloody war on drugs.

Duterte also sug­gested to law­mak­ers us­ing CHR’s pro­posed 678 mil­lion pe­sos bud­get to buy the po­lice body cam­eras if they do not want to re­store fund­ing for the agency, which he has clashed with re­peat­edly over his anti-drugs cam­paign.

The CHR re­quested a bud­get of 1.72 bil­lion pe­sos for 2018, but the gov­ern­ment pro­posed 678 mil­lion in­stead. Duterte’s al­lies in the lower house of Congress then voted to al­lo­cate it just 1,000 pe­sos ($20), in what crit­ics of the drugs war said was re­tal­i­a­tion for its ef­forts to in­ves­ti­gate thou­sands of killings in the past 15 months, in­clud­ing those of two teenagers in Au­gust.

“Why is this guy so ... suf­fo­cated with the is­sue of young peo­ple, es­pe­cially boys? Are you a pae­dophile?” Duterte asked, re­fer­ring to CHR head Chito Gas­con.

“Why are you smit­ten with teenagers? Are you? I’m hav­ing my doubts. Are you gay or a pae­dophile?,” he said.

Gas­con did not im­me­di­ately re­ply to a re­quest for com­ment.

Duterte also ac­cused Gas­con of be­ing a spokesman for the op­po­si­tion and crit­i­cised his scru­tiny of po­lice anti-drug ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Why can’t you move on to other is­sues that are be­set­ting this coun­try?” Duterte said, cit­ing the suf­fer­ing of the peo­ple in the be­sieged south­ern city of Marawi.

Crit­ics say po­lice are ex­e­cut­ing sus­pects, and say the gov­ern­ment has what is ef­fec­tively a kill pol­icy. Duterte has re­jected that, and po­lice say they kill only in self-de­fence.

The CHR has long said it lacks the man­power and re­sources to fully in­ves­ti­gate the killings, the ma­jor­ity of which ac­tivists say are of users and small-time ped­dlers, with few high-pro­file ar­rests.

Vice pres­i­dent Leni Ro­bredo, who was not Duterte’s run­ning mate and has locked horns with him nu­mer­ous times, said the law­mak­ers’ move re­gard­ing CHR’s bud­get ef­fec­tively abol­ishes the con­sti­tu­tional body.

Filipinos are largely sup­port­ive of the crack­down as a so­lu­tion to tack­ling ram­pant crime, which Duterte says stems from drug ad­dic­tion.

Duterte re­it­er­ated there will be no let up in the cam­paign, which he said was tar­geted at or­gan­ised crim­i­nals traf­fick­ing drugs and not at “teenagers with­out a sin”.

The fire­brand leader, who is also fight­ing com­mu­nist rebels fol­low­ing a break­down in peace talks with the gov­ern­ment, said he re­mained open to re­sum­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions to end nearly five decades of that con­flict.

Philip­pines pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte asked the head of the coun­try’s Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights if he was a pae­dophile. Pho­to­graph: Reuters

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