Aquino 'partly to blame' for culture of impunity — Roque

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 30) — Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said former President Benigno Aquino III is 'partly to blame' for the culture of impunity in the country.

Roque spoke in response to Aquino's criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte's statement during the latter's State of the Nation Address (SONA). Duterte said while his critics were concerned about human rights, he was concerned about human lives in his controversial anti-drug war.

Aquino slammed the remark and questioned whether human lives and human rights were inseparable.

READ: Robredo, Aquino oppose Duterte's human rights vs. human lives remark

In his press briefing, Roque said he wished the former president did more in advancing human rights during his term.

"I wish he did more also in protecting human life. Because (it was) during his administration too, that the UN also noticed that we were in breach of our obligation to right of life," Roque told reporters.

"Meaning, as a former president, he shares partly the blame for this culture of impunity," Roque added of Aquino, who was slapped with criminal charges in 2017 over the Mamasapano clash three years ago that left 44 Special Action Force members dead.

Earlier this month, Roque maintained there is no culture of impunity in the Philippines and the government does not condone any state-sponsored killing. It was not clear why his latest statement points to "this culture of impunity."

International human rights groups have slammed the Duterte administration's human rights record.

Last month, 38 countries issued a joint statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council session urging the Philippines to take all necessary measures to bring killings associated with the campaign against illegal drugs to an end and to cooperate with the international community to investigate the deaths and hold perpetrators accountable.

"President Rodrigo Duterte has plunged the Philippines into its worst human rights crisis since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s and 1980s.," New York-based Human Rights Watch said in its 2018 annual report. "His 'war on drugs,' launched after he took office in June 2016, has claimed an estimated 12,000 lives of primarily poor urban dwellers, including children."

The government's own data show more than 4,000 drug suspects have been killed in police operations, while thousands of others have died in homicide cases still under investigation, many of them suspected to be drug-related.

Despite the criticisms, Malacañang said it is at the forefront of 'protecting and advancing' human rights.

"The President goes by what he says, he is pursuing the drug war because he values human lives."

"The President is espousing, protecting, advancing human rights- if you view human life as part of human rights. No argument there."