Yasay: PH ‘can’t forever be little brown brothers of America’
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. on Friday said America must shift its approach in tackling issues and concerns with the Philippines particularly on human rights, saying “we cannot forever be the little brown brothers of America.”
Yasay who is in the US, spoke on Friday about the foreign policy directions of the Duterte administration at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
He said America should learn to manage its approach in discussing mutual issues and concerns particularly under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
During an open forum, Yasay was asked on the “missed opportunities” when the White House cancelled the scheduled meeting between US President Barack Obama and Duterte after the latter warned that he would swear at Obama once he raises the issue of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects.
“We’re asking America, to look at our programs and President’s commitments to change in light of our priorities, urgent needs and historical experience,” said Yasay in the CSIS forum held Friday (Manila time).
He assured the panel that “Filipinos fully understood the sanctity of human life, dignity of life, respect of inalienable rights to liberty, freedom, responsibility.”
“These have already been established in the minds of Filipinos, and it is precisely at the core of the struggle for independence and our right to self-determination,” said Yasay.
“It’s in this context, I’m asking our American friends, American leaders to look at our aspirations, we cannot forever be the little brown brothers of America,” said Yasay.
He added that: “At one point in time, we have to mature, we have to develop, we have to grow and become the big brother of our own people, of the next generation of Filipinos.”
The chief diplomat further explained that during the many occasions where the President made angry statements against US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama, this was because the US approach interferes with that of Duterte’s.
Yasay said US officials should not go to the Philippines with a list of grants but with a corresponding checklist to comply with.
“You don’t go to the Philippines telling us, I will give you something, I will help you grow, but here is the checklist you have to comply with and we will lecture you on human rights,” said Yasay. “Our goal is towards full respect of human rights and international norms.”
In his speech in the CSIS forum, Yasay said the Duterte administration’s top foreign policy is the Philippines unequivocal commitment to the rule of law.
“The rule of law doctrine fully governs the President’s war on criminality and illegal drugs,” said Yasay.
The Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs has been the target of global criticisms particularly of United Nations, US and international rights groups as it has resulted in rising extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, now at more than 3,000.
But Yasay said Duterte is a lawyer who believes that the law should be used to protect people from criminal elements and government abuses.
“Please bear in mind that the war on drugs encompasses control of demand, reduction of supply, sending the guilty to jail to stop their nefarious activities or afford them a chance for rehabilitation so they could go back to the mainstream of society,” said Yasay.
On the other hand, CSIS President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) John Hamre clarified in the forum that reports on Duterte’s “cussing and swearing” at US President Obama were not true.
“As President Obama said, he (President Duterte) is a colorful man.”
Hamre said of the reported cussing and swearing, “President Duterte was not referring to President Obama, he was actually referring to journalists who asked the question.”
He said CSIS officer Henry Howard, who is fluent in Cebuano, was present in the Davao City press briefing of Duterte.
Hamre said the reports were mere “mischaracterization by the press” so that every time Duterte meets with US officials, he would be referred to always “as the President who cussed the President of the United States of America.”
“That’s not a true statement, let’s straighten our record, we’re not going to let lies continue,” said Hamre in his message before introducing Yasay. RAM/rga
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