Rights groups slam Roque for linking them to drug lords

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While government data reveals over 4,000 deaths in anti-illegal drug operations, human rights groups believe the number to be as high as 13,000.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 27) — Local and international human rights groups called out Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque for his claims they are being used by drug lords to fight the Duterte administration.

International group Human Rights Watch said publicly linking human rights groups to drug lords is the government's "intimidation tactics" against them.

"These allegations are more than just gratuitous slurs aimed at undermining the integrity of already beleaguered Philippine human rights activists pushing back against the Duterte government's systematic attack on rule of law and its instigation and incitement of possible crimes against humanity," the group said in a Tuesday statement.

The Presidential spokesperson issued a statement Monday that the attacks against Duterte's war on drugs have been non-stop.

"We therefore do not discount the possibility that some human rights groups have become unwitting tools of drug lords to hinder the strides made by the Administration," he said.

Roque on Tuesday responded to HRW's statement. "(HRW) should therefore not feel alluded to, exaggerate and politicize the issue to get some media mileage and public attention."

Roque added he is standing by his earlier statement that some non-governmental organizations have become tools of drug lords.

Local rights group Karapatan, however, said Malacañang continues to "invent the most ludicrous of stories" and create the "wildest accusations."

"Malacanang places the blame on human rights organizations for the Duterte administration's failure to curb the illegal drug problem and accuses them of smearing the country's reputation," their statement read.

The local group added the Palace is either creating a scenario to justify the killing of activists or evading accountability from domestic and international rights laws.

"Either way, whatever they're having in Malacanang will not be enough to numb them and enable their hallucinations in covering up the Duterte regime's crimes against the people," the statement read.

Local and international groups have criticized Duterte's war against illegal drugs. While government data show more than 4,000 deaths in anti-illegal drug operations, human rights groups believe the number to be as high as 13,000.