On Duterte’s statements on US gov’t atrocities, PC revival, AFP involvement in war vs drugs

Karapatan welcomes Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s statement in the last ASEAN Leaders’ Summit calling attention to the past and present atrocities of the US government and military in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao, and other countries. More recently, he urged the US soldiers in Mindanao to leave, amid several documented reports of human rights violations by US troops. 

According to the Philippine Department of National Defense, in a recent congressional budget deliberations, there are around 107 US military personnel in Mindanao conducting various surveillance and drone operations.  They include 50 US Marines, 17 US army, 20 US Special Forces, plus US Navy and civilian personnel.

The US government is indeed a shameless hypocrite.  While displaying concern for human rights in the Philippines in its criticism of Duterte, it has an undeniable record of perpetrating and instigating the worst forms of human and people’s rights violations in the country and the world over. It is guilty of its war on terror and interventionist proxy wars and coups against peoples in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and against its own citizens. 

Karapatan calls on Pres. Duterte to take concrete steps to end US intervention and presence in the Philippines by abrogating existing Philippine government agreements with the US including the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), US-PH Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and all agreements legitimizing US presence and intervention in the Philippines.  

However, Pres. Duterte should also promptly address well-meaning concern, especially from Filipinos struggling for a just and lasting peace, with the continuing drug-related killings. He should call for a stop to the killings, prosecute and hold accountable perpetrators of the extrajudicial killings, including those from the police. 

The government should institute meaningful reforms in the living conditions of our people, especially the marginalized. He can strengthen democratic processes so the people can speak freely and take their future in their hands. The Duterte government should effect and ensure the provision of secure jobs with living wages, decent housing, free education and health care, and land to cultivate. It is through empowering the people and helping them provide for their needs that they will veer away from drugs.  

Enlisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the anti-drugs campaign is a dangerous proposition, given the role of some of its officers in the web of the drug trade, sordid human rights record and its propensity to use the campaign for counter-insurgency purposes. Similarly, Duterte’s proposal to revive the Philippine Constabulary, under which the Philippine National Police will operate, to participate in the war against drugs is like bringing to life another monster responsible for violence, cruelty and all types of abuses during martial law.  

The use of the military and other mercenaries in so-called wars against drugs is a concept that was peddled by the US government in countries such as Mexico and Colombia through the Merida Initiative. It is a form of military intervention which justifies American military and financial support for governments to maintain and protect US political and economic influence. It has been proven that US-funded drug wars have not eliminated the drug menace, but have targeted the civilian population in countries struggling for change. ###