TWO American senators have called on President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the killings in his war on illegal drugs, saying no amount of killings will result in reforms in the judiciary or end corruption and impunity in law enforcement.
Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch forwarded to reporters the colloquy of US Senator Patrick Leahy (Vermont) and Senator Benjamin Cardin (Maryland) on the “Recent Developments in the Philippines and Indonesia,” which he said entered US congressional records on Sept. 27.
“No amount of killing will result in reforms that improve the judiciary, end corruption and impunity in law enforcement, or rehabilitate those caught in the vicious cycle of addiction,” Leahy said.
“To the contrary, if President Duterte is serious about improving conditions in the Philippines, he should be focusing on improving services for Filipinos, not casting them aside; holding law enforcement accountable, not giving them a blanket license to kill suspects; and strengthening the judiciary, not undercutting it.”
Leahy said that, in a troubling sign that these concerns are falling on deaf ears, the most vocal opponent of Duterte’s anti-drug policies, Senator Leila de Lima, whom the President had publicly accused of being involved in drug trafficking and attempting to smear him, was recently removed as the head of the Senate human rights panel investigating the killings.
Leahy said De Lima was replaced by Senator Richard Gordon, who supports giving the police the authority to arrest anyone without a warrant.
“For roughly 700,000 Filipino drug users, the prospect of being summarily executed on the street has led them to turn themselves in to the authorities,” Leahy said.
“That would seem to be a good thing. But given the shortage of drug treatment centers, these individuals are either told to pledge that they will remain drug-free and sent home to recover on their own, or they are imprisoned in overcrowded, inhumane conditions.
“By failing to address the needs of those who have risked coming forward, President Duterte is missing an opportunity to combat the drug trade in one of the most sustainable ways possible: By helping hundreds of thousands of people get the help they want to beat their addiction.”
Leahy said he shared Cardin’s views about the importance of the US-Philippines alliance, and his concerns with the implications of President Duterte’s anti-drug policies for that alliance.
Leahy said he wrote the Leahy Law, which applies worldwide, to ensure that the US was not complicit in human rights violations committed by forces that might receive US assistance, and to encourage foreign governments to hold accountable the perpetrators of such abuses.
“While there are ways we can find out which units were involved in these abuses, if President Duterte’s government is unwilling to work with us, including by refusing to investigate allegations of abuses, then we are faced with a broader issue that cannot be remedied simply by withholding assistance from specific units or individuals,” Leahy said.
“The Leahy Law should be used to encourage reform and accountability, but to address these systemic challenges it may be necessary to consider further conditions on assistance to the Duterte government to ensure that US taxpayer funds are properly spent and until that government demonstrates a commitment to the rule of law. I have asked the State Department to discuss this with us to help inform our deliberations on current assistance for the Philippines and on decisions we will make for appropriations in fiscal year 2017.”
Leahy, citing recent reports, said more than 3,000 people had been killed in the Philippines in the 12 weeks since Duterte announced his campaign to wipe out illicit drug use.
He said more than 1,000 of those deaths were at the hands of the Philippine National Police during counter-narcotic operations, compared with 68 such killings this year in the months prior to Duterte taking office, half of which happened in the period between his election and inauguration.
The rest were killed apart from police operations, incited by Duterte’s violent rhetoric which had been well documented, Leahy said.
“The vast majority of these individuals were low-level drug users, victims of a government seeking to make up for years of ineffective, corrupt law enforcement and rampant crime by terrorizing the population into submission,” he said.