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Righting human rights

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An assessment of the country’s human rights situation after a year under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, says they have yet to see improvements, as they looked into his efforts to address human rights related problems since the time of his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, whose administration was accused of killing thousands in his brutal war on drugs.

Marcos Jr. has pledged and guaranteed that human rights would be protected during his term and tried to allay concerns of the international community. This was his promise to several Manila-based diplomats who congratulated him on his victory in last year’s presidential elections.

In a statement, the group said that the drug war killings continued, “though at a lower rate.” Philippine authorities “remain responsible” for alleged extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests of activists and critics of the government, it said.

It also pointed to the “baseless prosecutions” of veteran journalist and Nobel laureate Maria Ressa and former Senator Leila de Lima, taking note of her continued detention.

“Marcos has yet to rescind the orders and other policy statements that underpinned Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’,” it said.

“He should formally announce an end to the ‘drug war’, order investigations into officials implicated in illegal killings, and fulfill his promise to use nonviolent means to address illegal drugs,” it added.

HRW also reiterated its call on the President to cooperate with the investigation of charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Duterte in the International Criminal Court.

Byrony Lau, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said Marcos “needs to do more than issue statements” about democracy and following the rule of law to demonstrate his “genuine commitment” to human rights.

The Philippines’ human rights record has taken the most beating under the administration of two presidents, particularly Rodrigo Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos, the predecessor and the father of the current president, respectively. These are historical precedents that should give Marcos Jr. and his administration the motivation to significantly improve the human rights situation in the country, which has been sliding again in recent years, and muster the determination to lead it back to the right path, for the sake of the country’s reputation and standing in the international community.*

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