France disputes Duterte on human rights

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President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivers his speech during the 120th Founding Anniversary of the Philippine Army at the Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City on April 4, 2017. Kris John Rosales / PHILIPPINE STAR

FRANCE ON Wednesday rejected claims by Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte that people were guilty until proven innocent in its legal system, as it emphasized the importance of human rights and rule of law.

The statement released by the French embassy followed Mr. Duterte’s assessment of the judicial system in France on Monday as he defended his controversial war on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives.

“We have to point out that, as in the Philippines, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is at the core of the French judicial system, based on the principles enshrined in the French Declaration of Human and Civic Rights of August 26, 1789,” the statement said.

“France strongly believes in the importance of the rule of law, due process and respect for human rights in all countries, including the Philippines.”

In Monday’s press conference, Mr. Duterte had reacted angrily to comments by the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, about the alleged murder by police of a 17-year-old boy as part of the drug war.

On her Twitter account, Ms. Callamard condemned the killing as “murder” and called for an investigation, saying the boy’s death should be “the last.”

Mr. Duterte, who frequently uses coarse language particularly against critics of his drug war, lashed out at her personally.

“Daughter of a whore, tell her! Don’t she dare scare me, daughter of a whore. She’s an idiot! Where is that crazy person from?”

Upon learning she was French, Mr. Duterte said people in France were presumed guilty unless proven innocent.

“Even in her own place, that happens. She’s an idiot,” he said.

“In their place, they can detain a person almost indefinitely under the French law. And the French law says you are guilty and you have to prove your innocence. That’s how it works.”

Following the French embassy’s statement, Mr. Duterte’s spokesman, Ernesto C. Abella, said in a statement, “The Philippines and France share the same values of respect for human rights, due process and accord primacy to the presumption of innocence.”

“The President’s statements yesterday express the sentiment that while no judicial or legal system in the world is perfect, countries are continuously working to refine their laws and improve their respective national systems in order to ensure protection of human rights while maintaining peace and order within its territory,” Mr. Abella also said. — AFP