Human rights campaigners expressed shock and defiance on Wednesday after President Duterte threatened to kill them for hindering his bloody war on drugs.
Mr. Duterte issued his warning on Monday as the death toll from his controversial crackdown climbed above 4,800, or roughly an average of 30 deaths a day since it began five months ago.
“The human rights (defenders) say I kill. If I say: ‘OK, I’ll stop.’ They (drug users) will multiply,” Mr. Duterte said.
“When harvest time comes, there will be more of them who will die. Then I will include you among them because you let them multiply,” he added.
Amnesty International Philippines was among the groups to speak out against the comments, saying it was “appalled.”
“This pronouncement is… inciting hate towards anyone who expresses dissent on his war against drugs,” it said in a statement.
The National Alliance against Killings Philippines, a newly formed coalition of rights groups, said it took the threat very seriously and called on Mr. Duterte to revoke it.
“His comment that human rights is part of the drug problem and, as such, human rights advocates should be targeted too can be interpreted as a declaration of an open season on human rights defenders,” it said.
Fr. Atilano Fajardo of the Archdiocese of Manila, who works with urban poor groups, said those seeking to protect the vulnerable would not be intimidated.
“This (threat) is a continuation of his effort to create a culture of fear, a culture of violence. We will not let this come to pass,” he told AFP.
Fajardo said the Catholic Church, which counted more than 70 percent of Filipinos as followers and had so far been subdued in its criticism of the drug war, was starting to find its voice on the issue.
“That is why he is more threatening. He cannot just frighten us. The priests and nuns will speak out,” he said.
Since assuming office in June 30, Mr. Duterte has called on police and even civilians to kill drug users. —AFP