Former President Benigno Aquino III is partly to blame for the culture of impunity in the Philippines and for failing to address the killings of journalists during his term, Malacañang said Monday.
“I wish he did more also in protecting human life. Because it was during his administration too that the UN (United Nations) also noticed that we were in breach of our obligation to right to life especially on the killing of journalists as well,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.
“As a former President he shares in…partly in the blame for this culture of impunity,” he added.
Roque was responding to Aquino’s remark that it was wrong for Duterte to prioritize human lives over human rights since they were one and the same.
Duterte, in his SONA, said critics of his drug war put too much concern on human rights while his concern was human lives.
“If you think that I can be dissuaded from continuing this fight because of [your] demonstrations, your protests, which I find, by the way, misdirected, then you got it all wrong,” Duterte said.
He vowed that his drug war will be as “relentless and chilling” as it first began.
Roque, however, defended Duterte stressing that he is “espousing, protecting, (and) advancing human rights,” adding that he is pursuing the drug war “because he values human lives.”
“If the construction of many is that human life is the same or forms part of human rights. Then so be it, that proves my point,” Roque said.
According to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), during the first 40 months of Aquino’s term from July 2010 to October 2013, at least 23 journalists were killed.
It also saw the country climbing up the rankings as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that the country’s ranking soared from 6th place in 2008 to 3rd place of 12 countries dangerous for journalists in 2010. Since then, the country has been ranked third in the Global Impunity Index.
It was also during Aquino’s term when the Mamasapano incident, a failed operation which led to the deaths of 44 police commandos, took place in January 2015.
Roque, meanwhile, refused to comment on Aquino questioning the decision of the House of Representatives (HoR) to elect former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as House Speaker.
Aquino, a former Representative of the 2nd District of Tarlac, said Arroyo had very little left to do considering that there is only a few months left until the end of the 17th Congress.
“You know, I really cannot comment on that because I have ceased to become a member of the House, and that was the decision made of the House,” Roque, a former lawmaker himself, said.
“The former President was also a former member of the House, siguro pareho na kaming non-congressmen. Eh nagsalita na iyong mga seating congressmen, respetuhin na lang po natin ang desisyon ng ating mga mambabatas (perhaps we’re both non-congressmen. The seating congressmen have spoken, let’s respect their decision),” he added.
Before Duterte delivered his SONA, the HoR reached a majority vote to install Arroyo as the new Speaker, replacing Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.
This speakership shakeup stalled Duterte’s SONA for over an hour. The HoR held a special session immediately after Duterte’s SONA to formally elect Arroyo as new House Speaker. (PNA)