By Jon D. Melegrito

Letter from Washington



..."Duterte's 'war on drugs' gets a hearing in US Congress"

...continued from index page

Because the Philippines is a U.S. treaty ally, and the largest recipient of U.S. assistance in East Asia, McGovern stated that Duterte’s “antidrug” campaign and reports of extrajudicial killings “raise questions about how the United States should balance its concerns for protecting human rights and the rule of law with its desire to maintain the bilateral alliance and continue to pursue other shared goals.”

He pointed out that “the U.S. can’t afford any degree of complicity with extra-judicial killings, that’s why it’s important to make our concerns known loudly and clearly.” To emphasize this point further, McGovern said that “Duterte should not be invited to the White House, and if he comes, I will lead the protest against his visit.”

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Cal.), a member of the commission, echoed McGovern’s comment. “I’m troubled by Trump’s invitation to Duterte,” she said. “Trump obviously doesn’t care about human rights. The U.S. must not fall prey to bloody demagoguery.”

As the first witness to testify, Carlos said “We have 40 to 50 killings everyday of the most impoverished, beaten down individuals in Philippine society. More than 9,000 Filipinos have been killed during Duterte’s war on drug addicts over the past year. The Duterte administration should address the root causes of crime and drugs there.”

Carlos said that iDefend has called for “a public health-centered approach” to the drug problem by prioritizing rehabilitation efforts. “Harm-reduction programs,” he pointed out, are more effective than punitive measures. Other pressing needs include reform of the judicial system and greater discipline in the police force.

Matthew Wells decried the “economy of murder,” or “the endless demand for paid killers” whose targets are overwhelmingly poor. Amnesty International has called for reforms of the national police as a condition for U.S. assistance.

Phelim Kine said the Philippine government has “launched an intensive propaganda effort to deny the reality of a brutal slaughter mainly of the poor.” Human Rights Watch is calling for restrictions on security forces based on strict human rights bench marks.

In closing the hearing, McGovern called attention to a bill introduced last May by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD). He expects the House to file its own version of the Senate’s “Philippine Human Rights Accountability and Counter Narcotics Act.” The bill would restrict U.S. exportation of certain defense articles to the Philippine National Police, support human rights and civil society organizations, and report on sources of narcotics entering the country.

The heat wave in the nation’s capital is not expected to last long but the hot topic of extra-judicial killings and human rights abuses is not going away anytime soon.









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