MANILA — The Philippine government hit back on Saturday at United Nations rights experts seeking an international investigation into the unlawful killings during President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, calling the push “an outrageous interference” on the country’s sovereignty.
A presidential spokesman, Salvador Panelo, accused the 11 special rapporteurs of “peddling a biased and absolutely false recital of facts,” and said that the Southeast Asian country was an independent democracy with a working judiciary.
“Let the enemies of the state and their supporters from foreign soil be forewarned that no amount of destructive narratives against this government will envelope it with the appearance of pretended truth to hoodwink the Filipino people in embracing it,” Mr. Panelo said in a statement.
Mr. Panelo argued that Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, which the government says has killed more than 5,000 people suspected of being addicts and dealers over the past three years, was based on the “primary duty of the state” to protect its citizens. The police operate on strict protocols, he said, and those who deviate from it are dealt with by the government.
Rights group have placed the number of deaths at 20,000 to 30,000.
On Friday, the special rapporteurs called for an investigation into the killings, noting that there had been a “staggering number” of unsolved and unlawful deaths, along with official attacks on rights defenders in the country. They said the inquiry should begin before the Human Rights Council convenes a new session this month.
“There are now thousands of grieving families in the Philippines,” the United Nations experts said. “We call on the international community to do everything possible to ensure there will be no more.”
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the previous United Nations human rights chief, said in 2016 that the Philippine authorities should investigate Mr. Duterte for murder, citing the president’s boasts that he had personally killed criminal suspects. In response, the president called Mr. al-Hussein an “idiot” and other obscene terms.
Two cases of mass murder have already been filed against Mr. Duterte with the International Criminal Court. One was filed by two self-confessed members of Mr. Duterte’s hit squad when he was the mayor of the city of Davao, and the other by relatives of people suspected of being addicts and killed in the drug war.
The call by the United Nations experts “smacks of unpardonable intrusion on our sovereignty,” Mr. Panelo said, adding that the report’s arguments appeared to have been based on statements from groups that oppose Mr. Duterte.
“Lest these foreign propagandists, masquerading as human right protectors, forget, allegations are not proof,” Mr. Panelo said.
He stressed that the results of elections in May, in which Mr. Duterte’s allies effectively gained control of the Senate, should prove that the public supported the drug war.
Mr. Duterte initially said that he welcomed any international investigation into the killings, but he subsequently withdrew the country from an international treaty. Rights groups and experts have said that the cases would still be investigated.
Mr. Duterte has threatened International Criminal Court investigators with arrest should they come to Manila.