President Rodrigo Duterte is accompanied by Russian President Vladimir Putin upon his arrival at the Polyana 1389 Hotel in Sochi for their bilateral meeting on Oct. 3, 2019.
Presidential Photo/Richard Madelo
In Russia, Duterte hits 'misguided' drug war critics
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - October 4, 2019 - 10:48am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte came to the defense of his so-called war on drugs, which has been criticized by the international community due to alleged human rights violations.

Speaking at at the Valdai Forum in Sochi, Russia, the president called out countries that "weaponize" human rights, a term previously used by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to defend the Philippine government from allegations of rights violations.

"Closer [to] home, some of our partners have hurled unfair criticisms against my government about perceived excesses in our fight against drugs," Duterte said in his speech Thursday.

Duterte said those who criticize his campaign against the illegal drug trade are not trying to understand what is happening in the Philippines.

"Is this how friends treat each other?" Duterte asked.

RELATED: PDP-Laban inks memorandum with Russia's ruling party

Scrapped defense deals

The president noted that some critics have backtracked from defense contracts with the Philippines due to concerns on human rights situation in the country.

Last year, members of the Canadian parliament expressed concern over military deals with the Philippines. They questioned the sale of combat helicopters to the Philippines, which they described as having "terrible human rights record."

The president later on ordered the military to cancel the arms and helicopter deal between the Philippines and Canada.

Duterte did not mention a specific country in his speech in Sochi but he claimed that same countries supply high-end weapons to "parties whose actual human records leaves so much to be desired."

"We only seek to curb criminality that corrodes the very structure of government. We only seek to build a credible defense against those who might be tempted to violate our territorial integrity," Duterte said.

In July, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to adopt a resolution mandating a "comprehensive" international review of the Philippine government's drug war, a move that the Philippines rejected and that led to a Palace order for government agencies to "suspend the negotiations for and the signing of all loan and grant agreements" with countries that co-sponsored or voted for the resolution. 

READ: Here's a possible consequence of Philippines' suspension of aid from backers of UN drug war probe

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said he might ask for an exemption for the Defense department as turning down grants and loans would adversely affect the military's modernization program, including an agreement with Australia for navy ships that will be built in the Philippines.

'Critics clip our wings'

According to Duterte, drug war critics "weaken" his government's ability to protect law-abiding citizens from the outlaws.

"They limit our capacity to stop the vicious cycle of internal conflict and underdevelopment. And they clip our wings making it more difficult for us to effect meaningful change for our people," the president said.

"We are tired of the misguided and self-serving crusades of the few. It is time that they are challenged," he added.

In a speech in Beijing in 2016, Duterte announced that he had "realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world - China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way." 

In its 2019 World Report of watchdog Human Rights Watch, which also monitors alleged abuses in the Philippine "war on drugs," raised concerns over reports of torture in Russia, as well as of alleged curtailment of the freedoms of assembly and association.

"During Russia’s Universal Periodic Review at the UNHRC in May, Russia faced criticism for failure to end harassment, physical violence and killing of lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians, attacks on and discrimination of LGBT people, torture, and ill-treatment of suspects and prisoners, and other serious abuses," HRW also notes.

Philippines not against US, West

Noting that the United States is a a treaty ally, Duterte clarified that he is not against Washington or the West.

Duterte said he does not have an issue with the current global order but the actions of "certain actors" that "violate" the principles of the order.

"The Philippines does not ask for special treatment nor favors from its partners. It does not seek exemption from the norms and principles that have kept the peace in our world for decades," Duterte said.

The president stressed that he wants friends and partners to respect the country's independence to make sovereign decisions, the same as how the Philippines respect theirs.

"The principles of respect for state sovereignty, non-intervention and peaceful resolution of disputes must be upheld at all times, otherwise the order unravels," he said.

Duterte has long been stressing the policy of non-interference in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This has also been the 10-member regional bloc's policy on domestic issues of members.

RELATED: ASEAN non-intervention hinders discussion on rights issues — experts

PHILIPPINES-RUSSIA TIES RODRIGO DUTERTE RUSSIA VALDAI FORUM WAR ON DRUGS
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