Poe hits Duterte rights record
She did not mention the current front-runner in surveys on next year’s presidential elections, but the reference to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was clear.
“A government or people who abuse human rights are violating international human rights and have no right to lead our country,” said Sen. Grace Poe, who is likewise running for President and had been topping popularity polls before Duterte announced—after so much hemming and hawing—he was joining the race.
At the commemoration of International Human Rights Day on Thursday, Poe said in a statement that the Philippines should have a leader that upholds and not just respects human rights in the face of challenges.
Poe did not specifically name Duterte but the latter has been accused of setting loose a “death squad” to execute drug dealers and criminals since he became mayor of Davao City in 1988. He has not denied the accusations and in recent public statements even admitted he had killed criminals in his drive to make his city one of the most secure places in the world.
If a government allows the rights of constituents to be violated, it cannot lead the people, Poe said. Everybody should enjoy these rights, whether rich or poor, she said. “Everybody should be included and nobody should be left behind. This includes the right to choose a leader,” she said.
And as she continuous to face challenges to her candidacy on account of her being a foundling, her camp stressed that she has a right to run for President based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Commission on Elections is tackling four petitions seeking to disqualify her from running for the presidency in next year’s polls for supposedly not being a natural-born citizen, an express requirement under the Constitution, and for not meeting the 10-year residency rule.
“We all have the right to a nationality, the right to belong to a country,” Poe said.
“I have always said that abandoned children are entitled to the same rights that all people enjoy. The circumstances of their birth do not make them lesser humans,” she added.
The Supreme Court has recognized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its rulings, she noted. “We all have the same rights under the law. The law should be the same for everyone. We should be able to expect fair treatment from a fair court,” she said.
“At the end of the day, I trust that the Supreme Court recognizes the right of every Filipino to choose his leader,” she further said.
Some lawyers have stressed that the clear mandate of the Constitution that the President must be natural born cannot be contravened by international conventions. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban has suggested that the express provision in the Constitution should be set aside, Poe should be allowed to run in the election and people should decide her fate.
In a Senate forum, Poe’s running mate Sen. Francis Escudero also said the country’s next President would swear an oath to enforce and uphold the law and the Constitution, including the rights to life, liberty and property which could not be taken away without due process.
Asked about the statements of Duterte that he had killed criminals, Escudero said that while there are government agencies tasked to deal with such things, he believes it would be better to have the mayor account for these after the elections.
He said that during election season, any action would be given political color and seen as a move to put pressure on a candidate.
“If he has to face any accountability for that, it may be done after the elections. It’s not for us to use that issue against him now,” he told reporters.
But he disagrees with Duterte’s position that to achieve peace and order, criminals must be killed. He does not believe that the end justify the means, he added.
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