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Sen. Leila M. de Lima on Duterte calling HRDs as "Enemies of the State"

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Duterte once again displayed his patent disdain for human rights when he called human rights defenders (HRDs) as "enemies of the State." Combine this label with his previous threats and this will most likely make human rights advocates targets for harm, harassment or even liquidation.

Expectedly the spokesperson clown Panelo would justify Duterte's statements as a mere "hyperbole" or even joke. But no amount of rationalization would undo this conditioning of the President and his lackeys that could endanger the lives of HRDs once his fanatical followers, misguided security forces and death squads take Duterte's cue seriously.

Even before this ominous pronouncement, human rights groups report that 85 HRDs have been murdered under the Duterte regime, including Benjamin Ramos, lawyer of farmer victims of the Sagay Massacre in Negros Occidental.

Sino ba ang mga HRDs? Bakit tulad ng mga pari, galit na galit sa kanila si Duterte? Ano ba ang papel nila sa lipunan?

Human rights defenders are those who selflessly fight for the rights of others. They arduously and persistently check and speak out against abuses of power of those in government, safeguarding people's rights to live in dignity. HRDs exist to fight and counter usurpers and aspiring dictators like Duterte, the real enemies of the State.

Duterte is, after all, the instigator of thousands of extra-judicial killings and crass misogyny. He has undermined and co-opted key democratic institutions to persecute critics like myself. Even plunderers were resurrected under Duterte's watch. He even resorts to blasphemies and incitements to kill bishops in his intensified attacks versus the Church and the Catholic faith. His constant insults and threats versus UN functionaries have jeopardized our standing in the community of nations. Worst of all, he has treasonously sold us out to China for refusing to assert the Hague ruling in exchange for dubious loans.

Since the restoration of democracy in 1986, only President Duterte has managed to single-handedly ruin the social and moral fiber of the Philippine society.

Dahil mga HRDs, ang oposisyon at ang simbahan ang patuloy na nagsasalita laban sa mga pag-abusong ito sa kapangyarihan ng kasalukuyang administrasyon, sila rin ang patuloy na inaatake ni Duterte at laging malalagay sa peligro.

Given Duterte's incessant and dangerous tirades against human rights workers, the push for the enactment of the Human Rights Defenders Bill becomes even more urgent and compelling.

But what is even more pressing is for the Filipino people not to be intimidated and continue to assert their democratic rights and dignity since they are the ultimate HRDs.

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