Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte to Putin: Control your soldiers, spare civilians

Pia Ranada

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Duterte to Putin: Control your soldiers, spare civilians

HIS SENTIMENTS. President Rodrigo Duterte uses a weekly meeting on pandemic response as a platform to regularly address the public. Malacañang photo

Malacañang Photo

The Philippine President, himself accused of human rights abuses, reminds Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Russia of their 'moral obligation' to 'protect the innocent'

MANILA, Philippines – As more reports of atrocities by Russian soldiers in war-torn Ukraine made international headlines, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to exert more effort in sparing civilians from his military’s attacks.

In a televised address on Monday, May 23, Duterte even asked the Russian embassy in the Philippine to relay his message to Putin, whom he continued to describe as his “friend.”

Yung embassy ng Russia, kung nakikinig, I’m not picking a quarrel with anybody, Putin is a friend of mine. It is your moral obligation to see to it that the civilians, the innocent ones, children, the elderly, mga babae – vulnerable masyado sila,” said the Philippine President.

(To the embassy of Russia, if you’re listening, I’m not picking a quarrel with anybody, Putin is a friend of mine. It is your moral obligation to see to it that the civilians, the innocent ones, children, the elderly, mga babae – they are too vulnerable.)

Duterte described Russian soldiers as running amok and urged Putin to discipline abusive personnel. Specifically, he referred to Russian soldiers firing at Ukrainian civilians, a possible war crime captured in video and now being investigated by Ukrainian investigators.

Higpitan mo ang mga sundalo mo. Nagwawala eh, killing… Nakita natin pati civilian, anak ng – pati mga bata. Yung mga kanyon mo, huwag mo itutok dun sa residential,” said Duterte, nearly cursing.

(Be stricter with your soldiers. They are out of control, killing – We saw even civilians, son of a – even children. Your cannons, don’t fire them at residential areas.)

“You have to control and make sure you are really being obeyed. First is, protect the innocent,” the Philippine President added in Filipino.

‘Not condemning Putin’

This is not Duterte’s first time talking about Putin in relation to the Russia-Ukraine war. He had earlier protested comparisons made between him and the Russian leader by saying he kills “only criminals” and not civilians.

In his Monday address, the President softened his remarks by clarifying he was “not condemning” Putin, whom he has called his “idol” in the past, but just “sharing [his] sentiment” about how Russia was attacking Ukraine.

But in February, the Philippines had voted to condemn the invasion in an emergency meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

Though Duterte claims to spare the innocent from violence, he has frequently threatened to kill drug addicts and suspects outside of the country’s judicial process. There is no death penalty in the Philippines, though Duterte had pushed for its reinstatement in the early years of his presidency.

Duterte’s bloody drug war has led to the killing of 6,215 people, as of October 2021. But this is just the official tally by the police and does not include unsolved deaths being linked to vigilantes. Human rights groups estimate the number to be as high as 30,000, including those killed extrajudicially.

In September 2021, the pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) gave the green light to a formal investigation into Duterte’s war on drugs and the killings by the alleged Davao Death Squad, saying Duterte “publicly encouraged extrajudicial killings in a way that is incompatible with a genuine law enforcement operation.”

But in November 2021, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan temporarily suspended the investigation into the drug war and killings in Davao City, after the Philippines requested to defer to its government in conducting the probe. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.