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US senators question PH funding amid ‘campaign of mass atrocities’

/ 03:44 PM December 27, 2016
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. AP File Photo

A “campaign of mass atrocities” was how three American senators called President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, citing extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the campaign.

In a letter to the United States State Department assistant secretary William Brownfield, Senators Marco Rubio, Edward Markey and Christopher Coons denounced the rising death toll in the crackdown on illegal drugs and Duterte’s admission that he personally killed criminals in Davao City when he was still mayor.

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“If substantiated, these actions constitute a gross violation of human rights. Rather than address the systematic problems related to the country’s drug crisis, invest in treatment programs, or approach the epidemic with an emphasis on the health and well-being of the Philippine people, President Duterte has instead pledged to kill another 20,000 to 30,000 people, many simply because they suffer from a drug use disorder,” the senators wrote in a letter dated Dec. 22.

“The Philippine anti-drug movement known as Project Tokhang in fact appears to be a campaign of mass atrocities thinly disguised as a response to public health emergency,” they said, adding that drug addiction is “not a moral failing but rather a chronic disease.”

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The senators also asked the State Department to review its processes in granting and tracking the use of aid to the Philippines, particularly putting in question the $32 million in funding for training and law enforcement assistance that State Secretary John Kerry pledged during his recent state visit to Manila.

Citing the Leahy Law, the senators said granting assistance to foreign countries’ security forces should be prohibited once proven that gross human rights violations are being perpetrated by its members.

They urged the State Department to ensure that “none of our foreign assistance money dedicated to law enforcement activities is being used to support extrajudicial killings or other human rights violations of Duterte’s campaign.”

“While supporting law enforcement in foreign countries can be a key element of advancing US interests overseas, recipients of our financial assistance must align with our values and ideals, including respect for human rights and the rule of law,” the letter read.

The senators urged the US government to denounce what they called “horrific violations of basic human rights” and ensure that “no foreign assistance is being provided to support egregious acts against humanity.”

“While the use of law enforcement can help monitor and control illegal drug sales and consumption, extrajudicial killings are not a form of justice. Those suffering with a substance use disorder need access to treatment and a pathway to rehabilitation, not a summary execution where the police or vigilantes act as judge, jury, and executioner,” they added.

The US has not renewed a major aid package to the PNP. RAM

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TAGS: extrajudicial killings, PH, President Rodrigo Duterte, senators, US
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