Updated at 2:12 a.m. ET on 2019-12-11
Irish rock star and U2 front man Bono told reporters in Manila on Tuesday that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte should not “compromise on human rights.”
Bono, who was in the Philippine capital where U2 was scheduled to perform a concert later this week, said he had no plans to meet with the president during the band’s stay here. Duterte, who has been widely criticized for his government’s bloody crackdown on illegal drugs, also faces two murder complaints before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Bono said he took human rights “very seriously.”
“My impression of the Philippines is a very caring, very sophisticated kind of people,” he told reporters.
The musician, who is famously outspoken as an activist for social justice causes, was appearing at the signing of an agreement between the Philippine Red Cross and Zipline, a California-based service that specializes in deliveries by drones, for the delivery of blood supplies by those remote-controlled aerial vehicles to vulnerable populations in remote corners of the Southeast Asian country.
“And I understand that when progress is made, sometimes people make what they think are compromises for that progress, and I would just say you cannot compromise on human rights,” Bono said while responding to a reporter’s question about whether he would meet with Duterte.
“And that’s my soft message to the president,” Bono said.
He said he also had a “very deep conviction” about journalism, a sector that the increasingly authoritarian Philippine leader has often criticized.
“The safety of journalists is very important and I think that democracy requires a free press,” said Bono, who was helping the Philippine Red Cross promote its partnership with the delivery service.
The government has said that nearly 6,000 suspected drug addicts and dealers have been killed in the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs that he launched upon taking office in mid-2016.
The president has said he personally killed more than two people and that he ordered the botched ambush of a politician whom he had linked to the narcotics trade. Spokesmen for the president, however, have sought to minimize the admissions, saying Duterte was only exaggerating to make a point.
Earlier this week, Philippine human rights lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno said the president would eventually find himself face to face with the ICC once his immunity from a lawsuit expires at the end of his six-year term, in 2022.
While Duterte had already withdrawn the Philippines from an international treaty that created the ICC, it still is considered as the court of last resort for many whose relatives have been killed in the drug war, according to Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag).
“The president suffers from the delusion that he is invincible,” Diokno said on Monday, the eve of the annual worldwide celebration of Human Rights Day.
“But that is, in fact, the opposite. That day will come.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version misquoted Bono as describing the Philippine people as "very submissive."