The Philippines is one of the oldest democracies in Asia, but that didn’t stop its own President Rodrigo Duterte from criticizing the system that elected him to power in the first place.
During a speech addressed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in Davao City yesterday, Duterte said that it is difficult to run a democracy. Why? Because it gives too much importance to human rights.
“This is democracy and that is the reason we are pretty hard up. It is not easy to run a government that is democratic because of the so many rights of the citizens,” he said.
He also described the Bill of Rights as a “firewall” that keeps the government from fulfilling its duties.
“Police power, power of eminent domain, and taxation — those are the fundamentals. That is the government’s core power. But if there is a firewall also and that is the Bill of Rights — due process, right to be heard, lawyer during an investigation, and all of these things. And that is why we can hardly cope up,” he said in mixed English in Filipino.
If you’ve been following news coverage of the administration, this statement is pretty reflective of his policies and executive actions.
Duterte’s war on drugs, which has killed about 4000 people, has been criticized by various human rights groups.
Last month, the Internation Criminal Court started probing the alleged human rights violations linked to the narcotics crackdown. Also last month, several United States intel agencies called Duterte a threat to democracy in the region.
During his speech in Davao, he also told the military and police officers in the audience that he would back them up when human rights groups investigate them
“When human rights [advocates] or a [United Nations] rapporteur gets here, my order is: Do not answer. Do not bother,” Duterte said.
“Why would we be answering? Why, who are they?” he said.
“And who are you to interfere in the way I would run my country? You know very well that we are being swallowed by drugs,” he said, addressing his critics.
One of the administration’s main goals is to turn the Philippines into a federal government. This will entail a charter change and some fear that this is Duterte’s way of changing his terms in office and hold on to power, although he has said multiple times that this is not the case.