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US Senate Democrats urge Biden to address Philippine rights situation

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US Senate Democrats urge Biden to address Philippine rights situation
The US Congress meets at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
US Capitol Visitor Center website

MANILA, Philippines — Democrats at the US Senate have raised concerns over alleged human rights abuses in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte and asked the Biden administration what it has done about the reported violations.

In a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week, Senate Democrats also sought to understand US President Joe Biden's strategy to address the Duterte government’s “continuing pattern of human rights violations.”

“We urge the Biden administration to stand with the people of the Philippines as they continue to fight for their universal human rights,” the senators said.

They added the State Department should condemn the abuses "at the highest levels in our diplomatic engagements with the Philippine government representatives, as well as publicly."

The letter was led by Sen. Ed Markey (Massachusetts), who chairs the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific. He was joined by 10 other Senate Democrats:

  • Patrick Leahy (Vermont)
  • Jeffrey A. Merkley (Oregon)
  • Sherrod Brown (Ohio)
  • Ben Cardin (Maryland)
  • Ron Wyden (Oregon)
  • Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)
  • Cory Booker (New Jersey)
  • Richard Durbin (Illinois)
  • Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts)
  • Chris Van Hollen (Maryland)

Markey, Leahy and Durbin have been banned from entering the Philippines following their support for a provision in the US government's spending bill that allowed banning officials involved in the detention of Sen. Leila De Lima from travelling to the United States. 

Questions for Biden admin

The American senators denounced the Philippine government's "extrajudicial, violent and inhumane" campaign against illegal drugs, which has killed thousands of people, mostly from urban poor communities.

They also raised concern on the crackdown against government critics such as De Lima, human rights defenders, and journalists as well as the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

“What actions has the State Department taken under your leadership and respond to the Philippine government’s systemic human rights violations, including the coordinated push to implement the Anti-Terrorism Act? What has been the response?” they asked Blinken.

“Have you communicated to the Philippine government that ‘red-tagging’ is an unacceptable practice in violation of international human rights? If so, what has been the response?”

Last week, Duterte decided to recall his termination of the decades-old Visiting Forces Agreement following his meeting with Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

The abrogation of the VFA was announced in February 2020 after Washington canceled the visa of Sen. Ronald dela Rosa. The termination, however, was suspended for three times since then.

The Philippine government has rejected criticism of the 'drug war' from abroad, with Duterte throwing barbs at US President Barack Obama in the early years of the Duterte administration for raising rights concerns. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

HUMAN RIGHTS JOE BIDEN RODRIGO DUTERTE WAR ON DRUGS
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