By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. would probably keep silent on human rights issues in his first address to Congress on Monday to avoid offending the vice president, according to political experts.

Discussing human rights means talking about the deadly red tagging, the deadly drug war and extralegal killings for which ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte had been highly criticized by the international community, Arjan P. Aguirre, who teaches political science at the Ateneo De Manila University, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

Mr. Duterte is the father of Sara Duterte-Carpio, Mr. Marcos’ vice presidential mate in the May election, which both won by a landslide.

Last month, International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Ahmed Khan sought to reopen the investigation for Mr. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign months after it was halted upon the Philippine government’s request.

The ICC has given the Philippine government until Sept. 8 to comment on the ICC prosecutor’s request to resume the probe into alleged crimes against humanity by Mr. Duterte and his officials.

Former national police chief Ronald M. Dela Rosa, the main enforcer of the drug war who is now a senator, said the probe is an insult to the Philippine justice system. He said he would not cooperate with the investigation.

Mr. Duterte canceled the Philippines’ membership in the international tribunal in 2018.

“I expect too that the new administration will be indifferent or antagonistic toward progressive and human rights groups and their concerns,” Mr. Aguirre said. 

He cited the human rights violations committed during the martial law regime of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, Marcos Jr.’s father.

More than 70,000 people were jailed, about 34,000 were tortured and more than 3,000 people died under martial rule, according to Amnesty International.

Mr. Aguirre said he expects illegal arrests and detentions to continue under the new government.

Executive Secretary Victor D. Rodriguez did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment.

The Philippine Human Rights Commission said the Duterte government had encouraged a culture of impunity by hindering independent inquiries and by failing to prosecute erring cops involved in the government’s anti-drug campaign.

Data from the Philippine government released in June 2021 showed that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations as of April 2021. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 suspects died.

“The fact that he hasn’t even filled in the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is already quite telling where his priorities don’t lie,” Fides M. Lim, convenor of rights group Kapatid, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

Mr. Marcos has yet to appoint the head of the commission.

Last month, Human Rights Watch urged Mr. Marcos to appoint commissioners with proven track records of defending human rights.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the appointment of CHR officials would test the new administration’s commitment to human rights.

Ms. Lim said she expects the relationship between the new administration and human rights groups to be “heated to scorching with little chance of fair weather.”

“But it’s always pleasant to be surprised should Mr. Marcos suddenly reinstate the Philippines in the community of civilized nations by returning the country to the ICC,” she added.

“In the run-up to the state of the nation address, Kapatid challenges the Marcos presidency to release political prisoners immediately and to dismantle the institutions and processes that deliberately breed them in a growing number,” she said.

“The political prisoners now reach 802, the highest number since the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship in February 1986,” she added.