MANILA, Philippines – US Senator Benjamin Cardin, ranking member of the US Senate’s foreign relations committee, criticized Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte over recent killings in line with his administration’s war on drugs.
“President Duterte, in advocating and endorsing what amounts to mass murder, has chosen the wrong way,” Cardin, representing the state of Maryland, said in a colloquy – a dialogue between senators on the Senate floor – with US Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont on Monday, September 26.
Cardin explained that he, along with most of his colleagues, understands Duterte’s aim “to stop the devastation” caused by illegal drugs.
“We also have a long history of both successful and unsuccessful efforts to combat narcotics, but we have learned that there is a right way to approach this issue – with law enforcement, due process and rule of law, with treatment – and a wrong way,” Cardin explained.
He added, “Senator Leahy is absolutely right when he said that a lack of respect for rule of law and democratic governance breeds instability, distrust, and sometimes violence.”
Data show at least 3,474 people have died in Duterte’s war on drugs since he took office on July 1.
Of these, 2,217 people have been slain in extrajudicial killings, while 1,257 have been killed in police operations.
Cardin issued this statement as Leahy warned the Philippines of “further conditions” on US aid if extrajudicial killings continue in the Philippines.
Leahy is the ranking member of the US Senate subcommittee that funds American foreign assistance programs.
‘Troubling’ plan to revive PC
In his conversation with Leahy, Cardin also cited Duterte’s plan to revive the Philippine Constabulary (PC).
Started by the American colonial government in the early 1900s, the PC was the militarized police force that implemented Martial Law in the 1970s.
During the Martial Law years in the Philippines, the PC arrested activists and took over key private establishments and functions such as traffic control and garbage collection.
Several years after dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted, the PC was dissolved in favor of the civilian Philippine National Police.
Cardin described the PC as “the most abusive para-police under the Marcos regime.”
The US senator said that “for any historian of human rights abuses in the Philippines,” Duterte’s plan to revive the PC “is a deeply troubling development.” (READ: Lorenzana: ‘Let’s see if we need to revive Philippine Constabulary’)
Leahy, for his part, said he fears more than 6,000 extrajudicial killings in the Philippines by the end of 2016.
“This is not a situation in which there is occasional error or the over-zealous application of force. This is systematic, widespread, brutal, and beyond the bounds for a constitutional democracy,” he said.
Leahy said “state-sanctioned violence” will require “an appropriate response by the US government.”
The senator pointed out that the relationship between the Philippines and the US “is more than an alliance,” but is “a genuine friendship… built on shared values.”
“It is because these extrajudicial killings shake the very foundation of that shared vision of shared values that I find these developments so deeply troubling,” Leahy said. – Rappler.com