Speaking before the United Nations (UN) General Assembly for the first time, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to defend Filipinos’ human rights despite groups’ alleged attempts to “weaponize” them.

“The Philippines will continue to protect the human rights of its people, especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism,” he told world leaders in the UN assembly.

Duterte claimed well-meaning and ill-intentioned interest groups have “weaponized” human rights during his presidential stint.

He accused such groups of intending to stain his administration.

“They attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected government which in its last two years, still enjoy the same widespread approval and support,” he said.

“These detractors pass themselves off as human rights advocates while preying on the most vulnerable humans; even using children as soldiers or human shields in encounters. Even schools are not spared from their malevolence and anti-government propaganda,” he added.

Duterte touted the country’s controversial Anti-Terrorism Law which he said was necessary for eradicating terrorism in the Philippines.

“Terrorism looms large. Our 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act shores up the legal framework by focusing on both terrorism and the usual reckless response to it,” he said.

“Its enactment was done pursuant to our commitment, and the strict adherence to the relevant Security Council resolutions and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy,” he added. John Ezekiel J. Hirro