'Are you a paedophile?': Duterte questions human rights head over concern for youth killings

 abc.net.au  9/16/2017 8:02:43 PM 

Updated September 17, 2017 15:44:26

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has asked the head of the country's Commission on Human Rights (CHR) if he was a paedophile due to his focus on the killing of teenagers in the Government's bloody war on drugs.

Key points:

  • Commission on Human Rights' $41.9 million budget request was rejected
  • CHR says it lacks resources to fully investigate drug war killings
  • Mr Duterte has accused Mr Gascon of being a spokesman for the opposition

Mr Duterte also suggested to lawmakers using CHR's proposed $16.5 million budget to buy body cameras for the police if they don't want to restore funding for the agency, which he has clashed with repeatedly over his anti-drugs campaign.

The CHR requested a budget of $41.9 million for 2018, but the government proposed $16.5 million instead.

Mr Duterte's allies in the lower house of Congress then voted to allocate it just $24, 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 pre ... suffocated with the issue of young people, especially boys? Are you a paedophile?" Mr 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?"

CHR spokeswoman Jacqueline de Guia said the President's remarks deviated public attention away from a critical human rights issue in the country.

"These are remarks that do not show respect for the dignity of others," she said.

"The public must understand that the death of children concerns us all as they are especially vulnerable and need state protection."

Mr Duterte also accused Mr 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?" Mr 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.

Mr Duterte has rejected that, and police say they kill only in self-defence.

CHR effectively abolished

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 Mr 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 Mr Duterte says stems from drug addiction.

Mr 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.

Reuters

Topics: world-politics, drugs-and-substance-abuse, crime-prevention, sexual-offences, philippines, asia

First posted September 17, 2017 06:02:43

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