AN international watchdog has included President Rodrigo Duterte in a list of “populist” leaders that pose a threat to democracy, accusing him of flouting the law and inflicting a “human rights calamity” in the Philippines.
In a 704-page report reviewing human rights practices in more than 90 countries, Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted the wave of “unprecedented killings” by police and vigilante groups under Duterte’s “war on drugs.”
More than 6,200 drug suspects have been killed in police operations and by unidentified gunmen since Duterte assumed office six months ago.
“In the name of wiping out ‘drug crime,’ President Duterte has steamrolled human rights protections and elevated unlawful killings of criminal suspects to a cornerstone of government policy,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of HRW.
“Friends of the Philippines need to make clear that it can’t be business as usual until the killings stop and there are meaningful moves toward accountability.”
The report noted that Duterte considers the killings as proof of the “success” of his anti-drug campaign.
HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth warned of a “new generation of authoritarian populists” seeking to “overturn the concept of human rights protections, treating rights as an impediment to the majority will.”
“Instead of accepting rights as protecting everyone, they privilege the declared interests of the majority, encouraging people to adopt the dangerous belief that they will never themselves need to assert rights against an overreaching government claiming to act in their name,” he said.
Apart from Duterte, the group also expressed concern over the populist leaderships of Donald Trump in the United States, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Xi Jinping in China and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, among others.
“Meanwhile, strongman leaders in Russia, Turkey, the Philippines, and China have substituted their own authority, rather than accountable government and the rule of law, as a guarantor of prosperity and security. These converging trends, bolstered by propaganda operations that denigrate legal standards and disdain factual analysis, directly challenge the laws and institutions that promote dignity, tolerance, and equality,” it added.