Davao terror blast nips Obama lecture

POSTSCRIPT - Federico D. Pascual Jr. (The Philippine Star) - September 4, 2016 - 12:00am

THE TERROR bombing in Davao last Friday that claimed at least 16 lives in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown may have taken the wind out of any intention of US President Barack Obama to lecture his Filipino counterpart on lawless violence and human rights.

It is widely expected that when they talk this week in Vientiane, Laos, on the sidelines of the East Asia leaders’ summit, Mr. Obama will express concern over the mounting extrajudicial killings (EJK) that have marred the anti-narcotics drive of President Duterte.

Mr. Obama’s reminding the Philippine president about respect for human rights and due process could be interpreted as meddling in how Mr. Duterte is doing his difficult job of whipping into line this unruly nation dabbling in US-patterned democracy.

After the bombing of the night market by terrorists, President Duterte who was in Davao for the weekend should be the one lecturing or sharing with the US President his insights into terrorism, lawlessness and government response to such threats.

Mr. Duterte can also explain to him his declaring a State of Lawlessness – a notch below martial law – and his canceling his visit to Brunei while proceeding with his trip to Vientiane for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit and meetings with some Asia-Pacific leaders.

One gets an inkling of the Duterte frame of mind when, smarting from criticisms by United Nations rapporteurs of the summary executions attending his anti-drugs drive, the President declined to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. That was a most unusual rebuff.

When asked earlier if he was willing to discuss human rights with the US President, Mr. Duterte told reporters: “Depends to what degree… They must understand the problem first before we talk about human rights. I would insist, listen to me: this is what the problem is, then we can talk.”

Duterte sees Obama lecture coming

MR. DUTERTE must have sensed a lecture coming after White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told media: “We absolutely expect that the President (Obama) will raise concerns about some of the recent statements from the President of the Philippines.”

Days earlier, Mr. Duterte described US Ambassador to Manila Philip S. Goldberg in colorful vernacular as a “gay son-of-a-b*tch.” The remark came at an unfortunate time when the senior diplomat was already making his farewell rounds before reassignment.

President Duterte may also be anticipating the US President’s telling him that the $32 million promised by State Secretary John Kerry as aid to the administration’s anti-narcotics campaign must be used to “promote due process and rule of law.”

Such reminder could be grating coming on top of the statement of concern, made through the US embassy, over “reports regarding extrajudicial killings of individuals suspected to have been involved in drug activity in the Philippines.”

It is not necessary for the US to tell Mr. Duterte “we strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement efforts are consistent with its human rights obligations” or that “the United States strongly believes in the rule of law, due process, and respect for universal human rights, and that these principles promote long-term security.”

What we are saying is that bludgeoning President Duterte, and making him lose face before a watching world, will not work. Unless Washington already has the goods on him and is now warning him to behave.

Treating the popular President shabbily may just backfire on the US and push him closer to the waiting arms of China, a development that is unnecessary and avoidable.

Note that the Philippines under Mr. Duterte will chair the ASEAN in 2017 and host its summit. The influence of President Duterte, who has in mind pushing a drugs-free ASEAN, will be felt in the 10-nation organization and in Asia-Pacific affairs

No Senate quiz, EJK during RRD trip?

A PROPOSAL in the Senate, meanwhile, to recess its inquiry into extrajudicial killings during the trip of President Duterte to Laos and Indonesia has been met by a counter-proposal that EJKs be suspended as the President makes his debut in regional politics.

The twin proposals are worth considering, because the national interest will not be harmed, and may in fact be enhanced, if the Senate hearing is postponed and the summary execution of narcotics suspects is stopped during the President’s five-day absence.

The proposed lull is easy to carry out. The Senate inquiry tomorrow can simply be canceled by Sen. Leila de Lima who presides over it, while the police can unilaterally declare an Oslo-type ceasefire by suspending anti-narcotics operations until the President returns.

If police raiders will not go out to get them, drugs suspects will not have a, huh, chance to grab the guns of arresting officers and get killed or to draw a pistol to shoot it out with lawmen.

The rest of the EJKs to be reported despite the suspension of police raids would then be blamed on vigilantes or non-police assassins or rival drug lords.

Now if police raiders refuse to rest from their cleansing job during the President’s trip, their insistence would only confirm suspicion that they are driven by a quota and/or a deadline.

That was the main reason why we have suggested the extension of the six-month deadline: to relieve the pressure on the police to disregard human rights in their rush to pile up cadavers, and to give social welfare and other agencies time to prepare rehabilitation centers for drug addicts who want to turn a new leaf.

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ADVISORY: To access Postscript archives, go to www.manilamail.com (if necessary, copy/paste the url on your browser’s address bar). Follow us on Twitter as @FDPascual. Email feedback to fdp333@yahoo.com

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