US Congress asks Trump to call out Duterte on EJKs

The United States Congressional committee on human rights urged US President Donald Trump to express their country’s “profound concern over reported extra-judicial killings” in the Philippines ahead of his meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte during the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Manila.

Congressmen Randy Hultgren and James P. McGovern, Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress, wrote Trump on November 2 urging him to impress on Duterte that human rights violations must not be a consequence of the Philippines’ ‘war on drugs.’

Trump is due to arrive in the Philippines Sunday to participate in the 31st ASEAN Summit, which includes the US as a partner country.

The letter said that a Commission hearing earlier this year included strong evidence that police have killed 7,000 alleged drug dealers and users without charges or trial since the Philippine government launched its campaign against illicit drugs.

“The Co-Chairs request that, just as the President [Trump] will reaffirm to President Duterte the United States’ unwavering commitment to the Philippines, he should also reaffirm the United States’ commitments to fundamental human rights, including due process, and the rule of law,” part of the letter said.

“As co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we ask that you raise these concerns in your talks with President Duterte,” the letter added.

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Dear President Trump:

During your upcoming visit to the Philippines for meetings with regional leaders at the ASEAN summit in Manila, including Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, we urge you to impress upon President Duterte the United States’ profound concern over reported extra-judicial killings associated with the Philippine government’s “war on drugs.” 

We certainly recognize the strategic importance of maintaining our strong partnership with the Philippines, especially amid rising tensions in the region over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and Chinese territorial sovereignty issues involving the South China Sea.  At the same time, we believe the United States must remain a champion of human rights, due process, and the rule of law.

According to the Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2016 by the Department of State, there has been a significant increase in the number of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights referred to the recent increase as an “appalling epidemic.”  At a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing earlier this year, we were distressed to learn that police have killed 7,000 alleged drug dealers and users without charges or trial since the Philippine government launched its campaign against illicit drugs.

Human rights are fundamental.  Every government should afford their citizens the protection and due process of the law.  The Philippines is a valuable ally of the United States and major recipient of U.S. aid.  For these reasons, it is paramount that human rights violations not be the consequences of the Philippines’ “war on drugs.”  It is the obligation of the United States to advocate for and defend those human rights as set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we ask that you raise these concerns in your talks with President Duterte even as you reaffirm the United States’ unwavering commitment to and friendship with the Philippines.

Sincerely,

Randy Hultgren                                                          James P. McGovern
Member of Congress                                                  Member of Congress 
Co-Chairman, TLHRC                                               Co-Chairman, TLHRC

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Anti-Trump rallies

Meanwhile, progressive organizations in the Philippines took to the streets Friday to protest Trump’s arrival in the Philippines, accusing the US government of trying to drag the Philippines into a possible shooting war against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Hundreds of protesters filled the streets leading to the US Embassy in Manila to denounce increased US military presence in the country, including its involvement in the war in Marawi City.

The protesters held placards saying “Ban Trump – Fight US Imperialist War and Plunder” and burned images of both Trump and Duterte.

In a statement, progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said Trump’s arrival and participation in the summit represents “the worst aspects of US imperialism.”

“Trump seeks to maintain the grossly unequal relations between the US and the Philippines. He is right now the biggest threat to regional peace with his provocations against North Korea,” the group said.

Anti-Trump rallies were also held in Central Luzon, Northern Luzon and Northern Mindanao Friday while more are expected to be held across the country on Trump’s arrival Sunday.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)