Senator Risa Hontiveros commended some parts of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered by President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday, July 25, but said that it did not exactly provide a strong human rights framework.
Based on the press release from her office, Hontiveros said, “I commend President Duterte’s commitment to implement the Reproductive Health measure to the full extent of the law and expand the coverage of PhilHealth.”
The senator, as a health advocate, co-authored the Reproductive Health Bill during her time in Congress. It is now called The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RA 10354) after it was passed in 2014.
“Together with the enactment of other important health measures, I am hopeful that we will soon provide universal healthcare for the people,” Hontiveros added.
In his SONA, Duterte mentioned his healthcare plan when he said, “The government will also provide universal health insurance for all Filipinos.” He even added, “Sali na lang natin sa PhilHealth.”
Hontiveros also commended Duterte’s acknowledgement of The Hague verdict over the West Philippine Sea and his declaration of an immediate unilateral ceasefire between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF.
However, the first-time senator lamented over Duterte’s statement ordering the Philippine National Police to double, or even triple, their efforts against drug personalities until every last one of them “have surrendered, or put behind bars or below the ground.” She said that it could be interpreted as the President’s ‘endorsement’ of more killings.
“It could be perceived as public endorsement of more extrajudicial killings,” Hontiveros said.
Further explaining her fear over Duterte’s order, she said, “I am afraid that President Duterte’s statement might further embolden some overzealous police elements and vigilantes to disregard the rule of law and circumvent our judicial system.”
Hontiveros also noted Duterte’s statement “not to use human rights to destroy the country.”
Human rights advocates called the increasing number of drug-related killings ‘alarming’ and commented on how since Duterte’s inauguration into office, there seemed to have been “an average of 10 in extrajudicial killings case per day.” Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Leila de Lima were also among the government officials calling for a probe into these killings.
Hontiveros countered that particular statement by Duterte, saying that protecting human rights does not necessarily have to mean compromising the protection for the people from criminals.
“President Duterte must understand that safeguarding human rights is not anathema to the effort to protect the people from crime,” she said.
She also warned about committing the “highest of crimes” once human rights are ignored.
“The day we abandon human rights is the day we commit the highest of crimes: the failure to recognize the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all people,” Hontiveros said.
“We cannot use saving the country as an excuse to dismiss human rights,” the senator was quoted in the graphic accompanying her office’s press release, which is in stark contrast to Duterte’s “human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country.”