US senators reconsider assistance to Philippines amid drug war

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - September 28, 2016 - 11:33am

MANILA, Philippines — An American senator warned that the United States government may take action if the extrajudicial killings and state-sanctioned violence continue in the Philippines.

Sen. Patrick Leahy said that the spate of killings in the Philippines as a result of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs lack respect for international human rights commitments.

Leahy noted that more than 3,000 people have been killed in the 12 weeks that Duterte announced his war on drugs.

"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 on Tuesday.



The US State Department is yet to discuss with the Senate their current assistance for the Philippines which will affect their national budget for 2017.

"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," Leahy said.

The senator authored the Leahy Law which prohibits the US Department of State and Department of Defense from providing assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights.

"I wrote the Leahy Law, which applies worldwide, to ensure that the US is not complicit in human rights violations committed by forces that might receive US assistance, and to encourage foreign governments to hold accountable perpetrators of such abuses," Leahy said.

Leahy stressed that stability requires legitimate governance and protection of human rights.

"I also know, as do most people, that when governments condone extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, and prey on vulnerable populations, they are sowing the seeds of instability, not preventing it," Leahy said on Tuesday.

The senator added that Duterte should instead focus on improving services for Filipinos by holding law enforcement accountable and strengthening the judiciary.

Meanwhile, Sen. Benjamin Cardin said Duterte has "chosen the wrong way" in his war against narcotics.

"President Duterte, in advocating and endorsing what amounts to mass murder, has chosen the wrong way. Senator Leahy is absolutely right when he said that a lack of respect for rule of law and democratic governance breeds instability, distrust and sometimes violence," Cardin said.

Cardin noted that more than 6,000 people would be killed as a result of extrajudicial killings in the country by the end of the year based on the current trends.

The killings have been attributed to drug suspects who reportedly resisted arrest but the president rejected calls to investigate the deaths and claimed that the killings were lawful.

Duterte has also declared the killings of drug suspects as proof the success of his anti-narcotics campaign, Cardin said.

"But these recent reports of thousands of extra-judicial killings as well as detentions and a lack of respect for international human rights commitments are profoundly troubling," Cardin said.

Cardin added that the killings undermine the mutual goals of the Philippines and the US to uphold liberal democratic values in the region and to strengthen international law.

"I too am greatly concerned that unless we are able to see a more constructive approach on these issues from the government of President Duterte — an approach that is just as serious about combatting the scourge of narcotics, but approaches the issue in a legal framework — that we may need to consider taking these steps," Cardin said.

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