“If he comes I will lead a protest (against it),” said Democratic congressman James McGovern at a US House hearing on Thursday on the human rights consequences of the war on drugs in the Philippines.  Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission


US Congress hits Philippines drug war, wants Rody dis-invited
Jose Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - July 21, 2017 - 4:00pm

WASHINGTON – US legislators savaged President Duterte for the “explosion” of extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs and urged President Donald Trump to rescind an invitation to the Filipino leader to visit the White House.

“If he comes I will lead a protest (against it),” said Democratic congressman James McGovern at a US House hearing on Thursday on the human rights consequences of the war on drugs in the Philippines.

McGovern, co-chair of the chamber’s Human Rights Commission, said the EJKs stain bilateral relations with the United States.

There are other alternatives to fighting the spread of drugs consistent with the rule of law rather than killing people in cold blood, he said.

No other country comes to mind where people are assassinated in the name of fighting drugs and leaders brag about it, he said.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, also a Democrat, said she was disgusted that President Trump invited Duterte to the White House.

“We need to call this (Duterte’s) deranged policy out for what it is: state-sanctioned vigilantism that contravenes the rule of law and damages the international standing of the Philippines,” she said.

“It is critical that both Congress and the President condemn Duterte’s unacceptable human rights abuses in the strongest possible terms, and take concrete action to ensure that the United States is not enabling these practices,” she added.

Republican congressman Randy Hultgren, the other co-chair of the commission described the EJKs as an appalling epidemic and said 7,000 drug users and dealers have been killed without charges and without trial.

He said it was the obligation of the US Congress to not only advocate for but to defend human rights.

“We need to maintain bilateral cooperation with our ally without jeopardizing human rights in the Philippines,” he said.

One of the witnesses at the hearing, Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson for In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) of the Philippines said Duterte has effectively put in place a de facto social cleansing policy with his war on drugs affecting the most vulnerable and impoverished sections of Philippine society.

He has effectively defined a particular section of Philippine society as inhuman and worthy of elimination, Carlos said.

Another witness, Matthew Wells of Amnesty International, said he has been part of an AI team that has investigated the murderous campaign against drugs in the Philippines.

He said local government officials, at the behest of the police, draw up what is known as a “drug watch list” that purports to identify people who use or sell drugs in that area. The vast majority of victims come from the poorest segments of Philippine society.

Inclusion is at times based on hearsay, community rumors, or personal rivalry, with little or no verification.

These “drug watch lists” are then often turned into kill lists.  Police units usually rely on these lists to identify targets.

Amnesty International’s investigation found that, in at least some areas of the Philippines, police officers have received significant under-the-table payments for “encounters” in which alleged drug offenders are killed.

Payments ranged from P8,000 for killing a person who uses drugs to P15,000 for killing a small-scale “pusher.”

He called Duterte’s war on drugs campaign as one of the worst human rights calamities in the world today.

The Philippines is a treaty ally of the US and the largest recipient of American assistance in East Asia and has a unique leverage and influence to help ensure the war on drugs be reoriented towards a model based on the protection of health and human rights, he said.

On the eve of the hearing, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella in Manila described the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs as a “noble effort to protect the security and safety of the Filipino people and the future of the nation.”

He said proceedings like the House hearing that allege wrongdoing should provide the opportunity for all sides to be considered. “Insinuations and hasty judgments have no place in due process,” Duterte’s spokesman said on Thursday.

A House spokeswoman said the commission has a policy of not inviting foreign government officials to deliver statements at hearings but pointed out anyone was free to attend the proceedings.

She said a speech by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano at the UN Human Rights Council in May which was sent by the Philippine embassy, was included as an annex to the official record of the hearing.

The Cayetano speech provides a holistic and composite picture of the number of deaths relative to the fight against illegal drugs, an embassy letter said.

Palace: Let people judge

Presidential spokesman  Abella said the administration is unfazed by criticism coming from US lawmakers.

“As the President would say, the real judge of the actions of the administration would be not so much these opinions, but people actually,” Abella told a press briefing.

Abella pointed out that streets are safer now for Filipinos as a result of Duterte’s tough approach. – With Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Helen Flores, Romina Cabrera

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