By David Borden
A global coalition released a statement today calling for urgent measures to stop Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous drug war and to seek justice. The statement comes just before President Trump (who has repeatedly praisedDuterte’s drug war) will meet with Duterte for the first time, during the ASEAN Summit in the Philippines November 12-14. In anticipation, Duterte has reportedly told Trump to “lay off” human rights issues. Trump is one of 21 world leaders, along with the UN’s Secretary General, expected to attend the Summit.
Of the more than 200 NGO endorsers on the statement, more than 40 are based in Asia, including a majority of ASEAN member states as well as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The statement also lists several Asia-wide networks on issues such as HIV, transgender and drug user concerns, and youth democracy activism.
A political component of the statement’s outreach efforts is in the early stages, but includes legislators from Canada, Italy, Cambodia, and Washington State, as well as other political and governmental officials from Singapore, Canada and the UK.
“We call for a process of accountability, starting with a UN-led investigation,” says the statement. “We likewise call on world leaders attending the ASEAN Summit to unequivocally call for an end to the killings and for human rights to be respected.”
The statement notes: “Since the Philippines escalated its ‘drug war’ in June of last year, over 3,900 people have been killed in anti-drug operations, with nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still ‘unexplained,’ according to police reports. Estimates by media and human rights groups for the total drug war killings have ranged from 7,000 up to 14,000. Appearance suggests there may be a deliberate policy of extrajudicial killing.” (References are available in the statement’s end notes section.)
The statement was organized by a coalition including the leading human rights organizations in the Philippines, Filipino American advocacy groups, drug policy reform, HIV/AIDS groups and others. It was coordinated by the Washington-DC based organization StoptheDrugWar.org, whose executive director David Borden organized a forum on extrajudicial killings at the UN in Vienna last March that became highly controversial in the Philippines.
Notable signatories on the document include the National Organization for Women (NOW), Doctors of the World, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG, a nationwide Philippines human rights lawyers group founded during the Marcos dictatorship years), Treatment Communities of America, prominent human rights advocate and actor of MASH fame Mike Farrell, former police chief of Seattle Norm Stamper, and others.
“President Duterte has defined a particular section of Philippine society as inhuman & worthy of elimination — namely the poor,” said Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson for In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND), the largest human rights coalition in the Philippines. “Instead of caring for these people and addressing the root cause of their problems, this present leadership has chosen to assault and further brutalize them.”
Carlos was featured speaker at a forum at the US Congress’s Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in July. ‘A bill in the US Senate to impose human rights conditions on law enforcement assistance to the Philippines, “The Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017,” was introduced in May by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and has ‘seven cosponsors. Lantos Commission co-chairs Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and James McGovern (D-MA) sent a ‘letterto President Trump this week urging him to “impress upon President Duterte the United States’ profound concern over reported extra-judicial killings associated with the Philippine government’s ‘war on drugs.'”
Ago Pedalizo of the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA) said, “President Duterte, through reprehensible public statements, has instigated unabated extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug suspects by police and vigilante elements as part of his war on drugs. We call on the Philippine government to conduct a thorough and effective investigation of the killings, and to fully cooperate with investigations by international human rights advocates.”
“It is unfortunate that President Trump has repeatedly praised not only Duterte personally, but Duterte’s bloody drug war too,” said Borden. “I hope that both presidents change course on this. In the meantime, Congress should step in by including language from the Cardin/Rubio bill in the pending State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.”
The statement concludes: “The world is at a crossroads. At this uncertain time, lawlessness and extrajudicial violence must not become a model for more countries. When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act — by individual conscience, age-old moral principles, and the global agreements seeking peace and security for all. The time for action is now.”