Members of different human rights groups join a protest march along Commonwealth Avenue hours before President Duterte’s 3rd State of the Nation Address on Monday. The protesters criticized Duterte for alleged human rights violations linked to his war on drugs. (MNS photo)

MANILA, July 24 (Mabuhay) – If President Rodrigo Duterte is truly concerned about human lives, he would end the war on drugs and provide accountability for deaths linked to his campaign against illegal drugs, an international human rights group said.

The Human Rights Watch issued its statement after Duterte during his third State of the Nation Address that the campaign against illegal drugs will be “as relentless and chilling” as “on the day it began.”

Duterte also said that human rights was the concern of advocates and critics, whom he painted as unconcerned by the fate of human lives affected by illegal drugs.

“Respect for human rights and respect for human lives are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, one reinforces the other,” the HRW pointed out.

“Smearing the intentions of those seeking to defend rule of law only underscores Duterte’s craven, single-minded obsession  to continue the killing campaign regardless of the costs,” the group said.

The HRW added that allegations of illegal drug dealing did not give the government the right to “eviscerate due process” through an extrajudicial killing campaign that had allegedly killed more than 12,000 people.

“If Duterte really wants to demonstrate his care and concern for Filipinos, he can do so by declaring an end to the killing and providing accountability for those thousands of deaths,” they said.

Government data showed that 4,354 drug suspects have died in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs compared to 147,802 that have been arrested in 102,630 anti-drug operations conducted from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018. (MNS)