ASEAN 2016: Duterte to explain PH war on drugs

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will explain his controversial war on drugs when he attends his first international summit from September 6 to 8, a Philippine foreign affairs official said.

Duterte will also push for a “drug-free” region when he attends the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Vientiane, Laos, another official said Friday, September 2.

Hellen dela Vega, assistant secretary for the Office of ASEAN Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), said in a media briefing, "When he goes to the summit, it’s very clear in his mind what he wants."

"He wants to make the international community aware that he’s very sincere to evolve genuine change in the country and he wants them to understand where he’s coming from as far as, for instance, this issue on illicit drugs is concerned," Dela Vega said in a media briefing Friday.

When asked if Duterte will discuss his anti-drug campaign with his Chinese counterpart, Dela Vega said: "It's not only with China but with the rest of those he’s going to meet. He will explain to the international community the problem that we had, how it impacts on the social fabric of our society."

In a separate media briefing on Friday, DFA spokesman Charles Jose said the Philippines, during the ASEAN Summit, "will promote" its "key priorities," among them, "a drug-free ASEAN."

He also listed the following as Philippine priorities during the upcoming ASEAN Summit: "respect for the rule of law, a legally-binding code of conduct, emergency response and disaster management, protection of migrant workers, combating trafficking in persons, peace and reconciliation efforts, combating terrorism, and ensuring inclusive economic growth and connectivity."

Obama to discuss human rights

This comes as Duterte vows to suppress the Philippines' drug crisis in the first 3 to 6 months of his presidency.

Data show that 2,446 people have died in relation to the government's war on drugs that began on July 1.

Of this figure, 929 drug suspects have been killed in legitimate police operations while 1,507 have died in apparent extrajudicial killings.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has itself said it is concerned about the recent drug-related killings in the Philippines.

Duterte, for his part, slammed the UN for criticizing the Philippine government's war on drugs.

US President Barack Obama, however, is also expected to raise the issue of human rights when he meets with Duterte next week.

White House Press Secretary John Earnest said: "Both countries benefit from effective cooperation on a variety of issues, including maritime security. But the President is certainly not going to pull any punches in raising well-documented and relevant concerns when it comes to human rights." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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