NY Times: Hit PH with trade tariffs over deadly drug war

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A New York Times editorial is calling for accountability for President Rodrigo Duterte over the deadly war on drugs, even urging foreign governments to "hit" his administration "where it may hurt the most" – trade.

In an editorial on Thursday, March 24, the Times called the Philippine leader "impervious to moral criticism" but "he may not be immune forever from legal action."

It cited the impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, but noted that "there is little chance he will be impeached" given the majority is on Duterte's side.

"Exhausting domestic remedies, such as impeachment, could clear the way for jurisdiction by the International Criminal Court," the piece, entitled "Accountability for Duterte," said, citing the possible ICC case to be filed by lawyer Jude Sabio in connection with the Davao Death Squad issue.

"But it seems unlikely that Mr. Duterte will maintain such an obliging attitude toward prosecution, given his attitude toward his critics at home," citing the jailing of top critic Senator Leila de Lima in connection with the alleged drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.

"A more consequential action," the Times editorial continued, "could be one threatened by the European Union" – by "imposing tariffs on Philippine goods." It also called on "other democratic trading partners" to do the same.

The Philippines was given preferential status under the European Union-GSP+ (Generalized Scheme of Preferences) in December 2014, allowing the duty-free export of some 6,000 eligible products to the EU market. This preferential scheme by the EU is meant to create economic benefits when the exporting country meets its responsibilities under core international conventions on human and labour rights, environmental protection and good governance.

It also urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to "initiate a thorough, independent investigation into the killings under Mr. Duterte's watch."

The editorial piece is one the latest in the newspaper's coverage of the Philippines' deadly war on drugs, which has seen more than 7,000 people dead.

The Times, one of the world's top news organizations, has had critical coverage of the drug war. The Duterte administration and its supporters have fired back, hitting the Times for "biased" coverage  and "fake news."

It was the focus of Communications Secretary Martin Andanar's bashing during an event in Bacolod City on Friday, March 24, where he slammed the paper for reporting "only lies," in particular a critical profile of the President that came out March 21.

Andanar also said that Western media, not just the Times, is not open to the change Duterte has brought to the Philippines.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella also criticized the profile, saying it "cynically and unfairly" narrates Duterte's rise to power "in the context of violence."

"One gets the feeling NYT is not interested in presenting the whole truth, only that with which they can bully those who attempt an independent foreign policy," Abella continued.

One of the Times' latest stories on the Philippines' drug war is the documentary "When a President says, 'I'll kill you,'" a look at the nightly operations that are part of Oplan TokHang. – Rappler.com