U.S. lawmakers urge Trump to relay concern over drug war killings to Duterte

Jodesz Gavilan

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U.S. lawmakers urge Trump to relay concern over drug war killings to Duterte
Congressmen Randy Hultgren and James McGovern, co-chairs of the United States Congress' Human Rights Commission, says human rights violations should not be the consequences of the Philippines' war on drugs

MANILA, Philippines – The two chairpersons of the US House of Representatives’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission urged President Donald Trump to highlight the human rights situation in the Philippines in his upcoming meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte.

In an open letter dated November 2, Congressmen Randy Hultgren, a Republican, and James McGovern, a Democrat, asked Trump to grab the opportunity to relay US’ concern over the large number of deaths under Duterte’s violent war on drugs. (READ: In the PH drug war, it’s likely EJK when…) 

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

Trump is set to to attend the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit next week. He, however, is expected to first meet Duterte prior when both attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Hultgren and McGovern reminded Trump that the US has an “obligation to advocate for and defend those human rights as set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” 

“The Philippines is a valuable ally of the United States and major recipient of U.S. aid,” the letter stated.  “For these reasons, it is paramount that human rights violations not be the consequences of the Philippines’ war on drugs.” 

On Wednesday, November 8, Duterte said that he will tell Trump – or any other world leader – to “lay off” if he brings up human rights and the drug war during their first meeting.

“Human rights? Lay off, that is none of your business,” the President said. 

While refusing to comment on the letter sent to Trump, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that he and Duterte “have warm rapport” and can have “candid and productive discussions.”

“All [investigations] are undertaken precisely to ensure that due process and the rule of law prevails despite the Philippines’ significant drug problem,” he said on Thursday, November 9, adding that the government is committed to the protection of human rights and rule of law.

Duterte’s war on drugs has drawn a lot of criticism from both local and international community yet he has repeatedly expressed condemnation of those who called for the end of killings. He has also consistently highlighted the importance of non-interference in internal affairs.  

Latest official data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) show at least 3,850 people have been killed in police operations while at least 2,290 others were killed mostly by vigilantes. (READ: No extrajudicial killings in PH? World ‘not fooled,’ says HRW) – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.