U.S. lawmakers to Duterte: ‘Sovereignty doesn't give gov'ts free rein to kill'


United States Congressmen James McGovern (left) and Randy Hultgren (right) urge President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his drug war policies

MANILA, Philippines – The co-chairpersons of the US House of Representatives’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that “sovereignty” is not a free pass for a government to slaughter people. 

This comes as Duterte invoked Philippine independence as he again responded with threats to international criticism over his controversal war on drugs.

“We are stating clearly that ‘sovereignty’ does not give governments free rein to kill their own people at will,” US Representatives Randy Hultgren, a  Republican; and US James McGovern, a Democrat, said in a statement on Tuesday, November 14.  

“As co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress, we have encouraged Mr Duterte to reconsider his policies in keeping with the country’s obligations under international law,” they said.

Hultgren represents the 14th congressional district of Illinois while McGovern represents the 2nd district of Massachusetts in the US Congress.

On November 9, Duterte said that he would have the US lawmakers barred from entering the Philippines after they released a letter on November 2, urging US President Donald Trump to highlight the human rights situation in the Philippines in his meeting with Duterte. (READ: Duterte wants US lawmakers critical of drug war on immigration blacklist) 

The two lawmakers asked Trump, in Manila for the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings, to grab the opportunity to relay the 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…) 

‘Join us’

After their bilateral meeting on Monday, November 13, the US and the Philippines said in a joint statement that the two sides “underscored that human rights and dignity of human life are essential.” (IN PHOTOS: Trump and Duterte's budding friendship) 

They also said they would continue to mainstream the human rights agenda in programs.

Human rights, however, was not directly mentioned in the context of Duterte's controversial drug war which has drawn a lot of criticism from both local and international communities. (READ: Human rights advocates: Trump’s silence on Duterte’s drug war ‘dismaying’)

According to the latest official data from the Philippine National Police (PNP), at least 3,850 people were 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)

Hultgren and James are unfazed by the Philippine leader's threat to ban them, saying they “will continue to stand up for human rights and the rule of law in the Philippines and everywhere else in the world, in keeping with American and international values.” 

“We urge Mr Duterte to join us in that endeavor,” they said. “Should the situation in the Philippines improve, it will be our pleasure to recognize that the next time we hold a hearing on that country.” – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.