MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday asked the head of the country’s Commission on Human Rights (CHR) if he was a pedophile for focusing on the killing of teenagers in the government’s bloody war on drugs.
Duterte also suggested to lawmakers using CHR’s proposed 678 million pesos budget to buy the police body cameras if they don’t want to restore funding for the agency, which he has clashed with repeatedly over his anti-drugs campaign.
The CHR requested a budget of 1.72 billion pesos for 2018, but the government proposed 678 million instead. Duterte’s allies in the lower house of Congress then voted to allocate it just 1,000 pesos ($20), in what critics of the drugs war said was retaliation for its efforts to investigate thousands of killings in the past 15 months, including those of two teenagers in August.
“Why is this guy so pre…suffocated with the issue of young people, especially boys? Are you a pedophile?” Duterte asked, referring to CHR head Chito Gascon.
“Why are you smitten with teenagers? Are you? I‘m having my doubts. Are you gay or a pedophile?,” he said.
Gascon did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Duterte also accused Gascon of being a spokesman for the opposition and criticized his scrutiny of police anti-drug activities.
“Why can’t you move on to other issues that are besetting this country?” Duterte said, citing the suffering of the people in the besieged southern city of Marawi.
Critics say police are executing suspects, and say the government has what is effectively a kill policy. Duterte has rejected that, and police say they kill only in self-defense.
The CHR has long said it lacks the manpower and resources to fully investigate the killings, the majority of which activists say are of users and small-time peddlers, with few high-profile arrests.
Vice President Leni Robredo, who was not Duterte’s running mate and has locked horns with him numerous times, said the lawmakers’ move regarding CHR’s budget effectively abolishes the constitutional body.
Filipinos are largely supportive of the crackdown as a solution to tackling rampant crime, which Duterte says stems from drug addiction.
Duterte reiterated there will be no let up in the campaign, which he said was targeted at organized criminals trafficking drugs and not at “teenagers without a sin.”
The firebrand leader, who is also fighting communist rebels following a breakdown in peace talks with the government, said he remained open to resuming negotiations to end nearly five decades of that conflict.
Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Hugh Lawson