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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday discussed with US Sung Kim his strong policies against terrorism and illegal drugs in the country.

In a meeting at the Music Room in Malacañan Palace, the US Ambassador said he understood the challenges faced by the Duterte administration in fighting the drug menace, the Presidential Communications Office said in a press statement.

Also tackled during the meeting was the recent issue involving the Commission on Human Rights. 

PCOO said Duterte clarified he never directed Congress to cut the agency’s budget, adding he could not control the decisions of the legislative body.

The US official stressed the need to facilitate investigation of drug-related deaths to ensure continued people’s confidence in the government.

The President, in response, said the anti-drug operations of the police had always been in line with the rule of law, adding his administration never condoned abusive cops, including the immediate arrest of the policemen involved in the killing of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos.

In related developments:

-Malacañang welcomed the decision of the House of Representatives to restore the original budget of the Commission on Human Rights, claiming the administration had been supportive of the constitutional body despite its critical stance to the government’s drug war.

In a text message to reporters, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar hailed the House’s move and claimed the CHR had always been backed by the Executive branch.

“It is good to know that the lower House and CHR have ironed out their differences,” Andanar said.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar

“The Executive department has always been supportive of the CHR as you can see in the budget proposed by the DBM,” he added.

-The Commission on Human Rights unveiled on Thursday a Diokno Memorial monument to honor the former senator and human rights advocate Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno.

CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon spearheaded the commemoration of the triumph against dictatorship and the affirmation of freedom, democracy and human rights through the unveiling of the Ka Pepe Diokno Memorial at the grounds of the agency’s central office in Quezon City. 

“Ka Pepe was a legal luminary who worked relentlessly to build an active resistance of citizens that was necessary to make the anti-dictatorship movement emerge and ultimately triumph,” he said. 

Diokno was founding chairman of the CHR, and founder of the Free Legal Assistance Group in 1974.

In 2016, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and National Commission for the Culture and the Arts entered into an agreement to create a memorial statue in honor of Diokno. 

-The University of Makati-School of Law announced it was planning to open two new offices — Human Rights Center and Center for Legal Aid — to promote human rights and provide free legal assistance to indigent Filipinos.

Former Vice President Jejomar Binay, founding dean of the law school, said Human Rights Center would promote awareness on human rights issues and undertake research on the legal aspects of human rights.  

“These undertaking will hopefully contribute to a deeper understanding and appreciation of human rights in the Philippines,” said Binay in a speech during the opening ceremony for the school’s celebration of Law School Week last Monday.

Binay, a former activist and human rights lawyer during the Martial Law era under the Marcos regime, also emphasized the importance of making free legal assistance accessible to the less privileged in upholding human rights, enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.”© 

“©“The Umak School of Law’s Legal Aid Center will assist indigent Filipinos who cannot afford the services of a lawyer.  By doing so, we are actively helping them address whatever legal problems they may have, especially if their rights have been violated,” he added.

-Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno exhorted the government to always uphold human rights and for the people to fight for them.

In her keynote address during the unveiling of the monument of the late freedom fighter Jose Diokno at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City, Sereno said the fight to protect human rights of the Filipino people and democracy in the country persisted today, the 45th anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of martial law thbroughout the country in 1972.

The chief magisrate made the statement after a spate of killings of teenagers reportedly by policemen under the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

Duterte, in his talks with the US envoy, stressed his commitment to end the “vicious and toxic” drug problem, which he said, could destroy a “fragile Philippine Republic.”

He reiterated his invitation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to put up a satellite office in the country and conduct independent probes on alleged cases of human rights violations.

On the terrorist threats in Mindanao, the US Ambassador expressed Washington’s all-out support for the Philippines in its fight against terrorism.

On Sept. 5, the US Embassy announced a P730-million assistance through the United States Agency for International Development, for the ongoing relief operations and longer term recovery and rehabilitation in war-torn Marawi City and other affected areas.

Duterte expressed gratitude to the US government for its assistance and gave assurances it would be put to good use.

Also present during the meeting were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar. With John Paolo Bencito, Rio Araja, Joel Zurbano, and Rey Requejo


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