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US lawmakers urge Trump to prod Rody on drug war, EJK

In a letter to President Donald Trump, Reps. James McGovern (Democrat, Massachusetts) and Randy Hultgren (Republican, Illinois) cited information gathered by a congressional commission showing 7,000 drug suspects killed. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines — Two US lawmakers are urging President Donald Trump to take advantage of his upcoming meeting with President Duterte to express Washington’s “profound concern” over reports of drug-related extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

In a letter to Trump, Reps. James McGovern (Democrat, Massachusetts) and Randy Hultgren (Republican, Illinois) cited information gathered by a congressional commission showing 7,000 drug suspects killed.

“During your upcoming visit to the Philippines for meetings with regional leaders at the ASEAN summit in Manila, including Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, we urge you to impress upon President Duterte the United States’ profound concern over reported extrajudicial killings associated with the Philippine government’s ‘war on drugs’,” the lawmakers said in their letter to Trump.

While Trump is likely to reaffirm the US’ strong partnership with the Philippines, the US leader should also emphasize his country’s firm adherence to fundamental human rights, due process, and the rule of law. The two lawmakers acknowledged the need for the US to maintain or even strengthen its ties with the Philippines, especially amid rising tensions in the region over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs as well as China’s provocative acts in the South China Sea.

“As co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we ask that you raise these concerns in your talks with President Duterte even as you reaffirm the United States’ unwavering commitment to and friendship with the Philippines,” they said.

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US House of Representatives was organized to help in the promotion and defense of international human rights.

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The commission undertakes public education activities, provides expert human rights advice and encourages members of Congress to actively engage in human rights issues.

Citing the Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2016 by the State Department, the lawmakers said there had been a significant increase in the number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called the recent increase an “appalling epidemic.”

“It is the obligation of the United States to advocate for and defend those human rights as set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the lawmakers’ letter to Trump read.

Appeal to APEC

The New York-based Human Rights Watch also urged world leaders in the APEC meet to discuss not only Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis but also the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines and in two other Southeast Asian countries Vietnam and Cambodia.

After the APEC meet, world leaders will again meet in Manila from Nov. 12-14 for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asian summits and related meetings.

Trump and leaders of the European Union, Japan and South Korea are expected to attend the East Asia summit.

Human Rights Watch said the ASEAN Summit would be an opportunity for the world leaders to raise concerns over extrajudicial killings in the counduct of President Duterte’s war on drugs.

The group said the anti-drug campaign has also seriously harmed free speech and political space in the Philippines resulting even in the detention of drug war critic Sen. Leila de Lima.

Duterte, the group said, has repeatedly threatened human rights advocates and lawyers, and warned that he would impose martial law nationwide if his political foes continue their attacks.

“Surely someone from among the 20 world leaders at these summits can confront Duterte about his horrific and unprecedented ‘drug war’ killings,” said Brad Adams, HRW Asia director. “Widespread summary executions of drug suspects are not just illegal, they are ineffectual and cruel,” he said.

Human Rights Watch said counter-narcotics policies and addiction treatments in many countries around the world, including Canada and in the EU, have shifted toward public health approaches emphasizing voluntary and community-based treatment.

In the US, the federal government’s response to the opioid crisis has begun to emphasize drug dependence treatment over enforcement. President Trump recently declared a public health emergency in the face of an opioid crisis, although his administration has not yet taken adequate action to implement a more public health oriented approach, Human Rights Watch said.

Protests vs Trump

Militant groups, meanwhile, vowed to hound President Trump with protests when he visits Manila next week.

“Trump will definitely be hounded by protest actions wherever he goes,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said yesterday.

He made the statement after Bayan Muna members picketed Trump Tower in Makati to start their protest activities against the American leader’s visit.

“We want the bells not the bombs! The US has yet to return the Balangiga bells and other war booties they took from our country as well apologize for the atrocities they committed during the Philippine-American War,” he said.

Zarate said the House of Representatives’ leadership should speed up the approval of Resolution 412, which asks the US to return the Balangiga bells.

He said Trump’s extended visit to Manila “is an insult to Filipinos, considering that the US government is one of those responsible for the current state of Philippine economy and politics.”

Yesterday, members of the militant women’s group Gabriela picketed the US embassy in Manila to protest Trump’s coming visit.

“Impoverished women in the exploited countries of Asia reject wholesale the neoliberal doctrine that the Trump administration and his fellow travellers in free trade networks impose on billions of workers and farmers,” Gabriela secretary-general Joms Salvador said.

In Cagayan de Oro, the League of Filipino students also launched protest activities with its chairperson for Northern Mindanao Region Kristine Cabardo accusing the US of bringing “nothing but wars and destruction in its neo-colonies such as ours.” Jess Diaz, Rhodina Villanueva, Gerry Lee-Gorit

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