Press Release
July 26, 2016

Hontiveros on Duterte's SONA: Has commendable
parts but lacks human rights lens

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros today said President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) has laudable parts but lacked a strong human rights framework.

"I commend President Duterte's commitment to implement the RH Law to the full extent of the law and expand the coverage of the PhilHealth. Together with the enactment of other important health measures, I am hopeful that we will soon provide universal healthcare for the people," Hontiveros.

The neophyte Senator also praised Duterte's recognition of The Hague ruling over the West Philippine Sea. Hontiveros said the ruling must be used by the government to mobilize allies and international public opinion to assert the country's sovereignty and in advancing genuine peace and stability in the region.

Meanwhile, Hontiveros welcomed Duterte's declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA-NDF. "At a time when it is easier to wage war than seek peace, President Duterte's decision is a bold move. I challenge the armed communist left to match this gesture by imposing an immediate and unconditional ceasefire,"the Senator said.

However, Hontiveros lamented the lack of human rights lens in Duterte's SONA. She expressed her concern over the President's order to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to double or triple its anti-crime and anti-illegal drugs efforts and put all alleged criminals and drug pushers "below the ground."

"It could be perceived as public endorsement of more extrajudicial killings. 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," she explained.

Hontiveros also took exception with President Duterte's warning "not to use human rights to destroy the country."

"It's dangerous. The statement puts human rights advocates and criminals in one basket. It makes human rights defenders target of random killings done in the name of fighting crime," she said.

"President Duterte must understand that safeguarding human rights is not anathema to the effort to protect the people from crime. 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 concluded.

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