MANILA, Philippines – Deeply troubled by the extraordinarily high number of individuals killed in the administration’s war against illegal drugs, two American senators said yesterday the United States might have to impose conditions on assistance to the Philippines, given President Duterte’s supposed refusal to address concerns on human rights violations and other abuses.
Senate Colloquy ( Sen. Leahy and @SenatorCardin ) On Recent Developments In The #Philippines And #Indonesia -- https://t.co/sADdoUQiGr— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) September 27, 2016
Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Benjamin Cardin On Recent Developments in the Philippines and Indonesia
MR. LEAHY: Mr. President, according to recent reports, more than 3,000 people have been killed in the Philippines in the twelve weeks since President Duterte announced his campaign to wipe out illicit drug use.
More than 1,000 of those deaths were at the hands of the Philippine National Police during counter narcotic operations, compared to 68 such killings this year in the months prior to President Duterte taking office, half of which happened in the period between his election and inauguration. The rest were killed apart from police operations, incited by President Duterte’s violent rhetoric, which has been well documented. The vast majority of these individuals were low-level drug users, victims of a government seeking to make up for years of ineffective, corrupt law enforcement and rampant crime by terrorizing the population into submission.
As the ranking member or chairman for more than 25 years of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds U.S. foreign assistance programs, I have been frustrated that we often fail to learn obvious lessons when it comes to foreign assistance investments. One example is that economic opportunity and security alone cannot assure stability. Stability requires legitimate governance and the protection of human rights. This is not just an aspiration; it is a practical, strategic imperative.
As a former prosecutor and now ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, I know the difference between those who need help versus those who deserve to be punished. 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.
For roughly 700,000 Filipino drug users, the prospect of being summarily executed on the street has led them to turn themselves into the authorities. That would seem to be a good thing. But given the shortage of drug treatment centers, these individuals are either told to pledge that they will remain drug free and sent home to recover on their own, or they are imprisoned in overcrowded, inhumane conditions. By failing to address the needs of those who have risked coming forward, President Duterte is missing an opportunity to combat the drug trade in one of the most sustainable ways possible: by helping hundreds of thousands of people get the help they want to beat their addiction.
No amount of killing will result in reforms that improve the judiciary, end corruption and impunity in law enforcement, or rehabilitate those caught in the vicious cycle of addiction. To the contrary, if President Duterte is serious about improving conditions in the Philippines, he should be focusing on improving services for Filipinos, not casting them aside; holding law enforcement accountable, not giving them a blanket license to kill suspects; and strengthening the judiciary, not undercutting it.
In a troubling sign that these concerns are falling on deaf ears, President Duterte’s most vocal opponent of his anti-drug policies, who President Duterte has publicly accused of being involved in drug trafficking and attempting to smear him, was recently removed from her position as the head of the Senate human rights panel investigating the killings. She was replaced by a Senator who supports giving the police the authority to arrest anyone without a warrant.
I know that as Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin also has concerns with the situation in the Philippines, and I yield to him for any remarks he may wish to make. Complete press release from Senator Leahy's office here.
|Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont|
The Leahy Law or Leahy amendment is a U.S. human rights law that prohibits the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. It is named after its principal sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
To implement this law, U.S. embassies, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and the appropriate regional bureau of the U.S. Department of State vet potential recipients of security assistance. If a unit is found to have been credibly implicated in a serious abuse of human rights, assistance is denied until the host nation government takes effective steps to bring the responsible persons within the unit to justice. While the U.S. Government does not publicly report on foreign armed force units it has cut off from receiving assistance, press reports have indicated that security force units in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan and Saint Lucia have been denied assistance due to the Leahy Law.