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Hard on Duterte, tame on Suu Kyi

I am appalled by the hyprocrisy of some people. While they harp about how bad the human rights record of the Philippines has become, they are only grudgingly acknowledging what is happening right now to the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar who are being slaughtered by the military and driven out by the Buddhist majority militants.

Maybe it has something to do with the leaders of both countries. Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has always been seen as a raw and rough rural maverick who nobody expected to become president. Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, on the other hand, is the sweet and frail pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner everybody wanted to lead their country.

From that perspective, it is easy to see who gets to be criticized almost automatically whenever human rights violations become a genuine global concern. But shooting from the hip has never served such a contentious issue well. More so when built-in biases come into play and shove aside the need for a thorough and impartial determination of facts.

Many of those who criticized Duterte started criticizing even before they have even set foot on any part of the Philippine islands. They started condemning the Philippine leader based on what they have read in the news. But quite increasingly, the news has become less reliable as a source of information, owing to the political interests and natural biases of the news guardians.

This is not to deny any human rights cases worthy of official attention in the Philippines. But the truth is, there are so many complicating factors that have come into play that no one is exactly sure anymore what the truth is. In face of such uncertainty, it is unfair and unsettling to condemn the human rights situation in the Philippines based on nothing more substantial than a headline or a loud tv news sound byte.

The situation in Myanmar, on the other hand, is something that no longer demands a thorough and impartial investigation. The Rohingya humanitarian crisis has become very self-evident. Genocide is now taking place in that country and yet there is no condemnation of Suu Kyi similar to that of Duterte. Any questions about how Suu Kyi is handling the crisis are, at best, guarded, even subdued.

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Human rights advocates, while no longer having a choice but to speak up, are speaking up almost in a very deferential manner. They almost do not even mention Suu Kyi by name, saying only that Myanmar needs to address the problem. No women’s groups have risen to be recognized and speak up against the Nobel laureate. Is it because she is a woman and used to be an icon of women?

In light of what is currently happening in both countries, Suu Kyi ought to deserve the more stringent condemnation than Duterte. In the first place, it is genocide that is now happening in Myanmar. In the Philippines, it is only an aggressive anti-illegal drug war. More people have been killed, raped and abused in the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar than in the Philippine war on drugs. Duterte laid his cards on the table. People got what they saw. Suu Kyi came with too much promise.

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