COMMISSION on Human Rights chairman Jose Luis Martin Gascon on Friday tagged President Rodrigo Duterte as a “popularly elected despot” who poses the “biggest challenge to democracy” since the Marcos dictatorship.
He said Duterte was undermining due process and ignoring human rights to consolidate personal power.
He made his statement amid the Duterte administration’s continuing robust defense of its war on illegal drugs, which has seen thousands of pushers and users killed since he took office in July.
“This is probably the biggest challenge to democracy since the [Marcos] dictatorship,” Gascon told the US-based Foreign Policy magazine.
“With the election of Mr. Duterte, we’re moving away from the post-authoritarian democratic consensus to a period of illiberal democracy.”
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Gascon’s charges were baseless.
“Gascon is a threat to intelligent communication,” Panelo told Manila Standard in a chance interview.
Gascon, whom Duterte had called an “idiot” for condemning his “rape joke” against an Australian missionary in the 1980s, said the Philippines was in danger of aligning itself with a “popularly elected despot” who was using his mandate to undermine institutions and consolidate personal power.
Duterte enjoys sky-high approval ratings despite the widespread criticism on his war on drugs.
Duterte always justifies his defense of the police over the spate of vigilante-style killings that have snuffed out more than 3,600 lives, saying those killings are being perpetrated by the drug syndicates themselves, and that two policemen die every day in narcotics operations.
But Gascon says Duterte’s anti-drug campaign is “making a mockery of the most fundamental principles of the rule of law.”
“We’re essentially setting loose the police from whatever constraints we’ve tried to establish over the past 30 years,” he said.
“We’re living in dangerous times.”
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