Bipartisan Senate Bill Introduced to Rein in U.S. Support of Philippines’ Drug War

Press Release May 3, 2017
Media Contact

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<p>Tony Newman 646-335-5384<br />
Michael Collins 404-539-6437</p>

Today, Senators Cardin (D-MD), Rubio (R-FL), Schatz (D-HI). And Markey (D-MA) introduced the “Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017,” a bill that places restrictions on defense aid to the country, provides additional funding for the Filipino human rights community, and supports a public health approach to drug use. The bill comes as the number of extrajudicial killings passes an estimated 7,000 in around nine months, as a result of the drug war led by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

“In a week where Trump has disgraced the country by inviting a self-confessed killer to the White House, it is encouraging to see Senators from both parties push back against Duterte’s vicious drug war,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director of Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “This bill is a good first step and sends a message to Duterte and Trump that neither the U.S. public nor politicians support the slaughter of Filipino civilians in the name of the war on drugs.”

Senator Cardin is the top Democrat in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with Rubio and Markey also prominent members. Senator Schatz sits on the Appropriations Committee, which controls the purse strings for foreign aid.

Over the weekend, it was revealed that President Trump had invited President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines to the White House after having a “very friendly conversation with Mr. Duterte”. According to a statement issued by the White House, the two “discussed the fact that the Philippines is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.” To add insult to injury, media then reported that Duterte may not accept the invite.

Since he was elected President last May, Duterte has championed a campaign that is responsible for extrajudicial killing of thousands of people.

“It’s good to see senators from both sides of the aisle respond to the crisis in the Philippines with a bill that includes crucial support for Philippine human rights defenders and for victims of the past year’s egregious human rights violations,” said Hannah Hetzer, Senior International Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Trump should take note of this approach, rescind his invitation to Duterte, and show support for the victims of this drug war instead of for a president who may be guilty of crimes against humanity.”

In December 2016, an advisor to Trump’s transition team on security policy said that the president-elect would start a “clean slate” with Duterte “without being wedded to previous policy failures.” Days later, President Trump praised Duterte for his efforts and The New York Times ran a feature piece documenting the homicide victims of Duterte’s brutal drug war.

Duterte has repeatedly shown complete disregard for due process or human rights. In his call for the murder of people who use or sell drugs, he promised medals for citizens who comply, and pardons for police if they are charged with human rights violations while carrying out the executions. He has even likened himself to Hitler. These extrajudicial killings have largely claimed the lives of the country’s most marginalized and vulnerable citizens, including those who are unemployed or underemployed.

Last summer, more than 300 non-governmental organizations sent an open letter to the UNODC Executive Director, Mr. Yury Fedotov, and the INCB President, Mr. Werner Sipp, asking them to take immediate action aimed at putting a stop to the extrajudicial killings.

Despite international calls for Duterte to end the extrajudicial killings, he has refused to change direction, responding to anyone who has questioned his anti-drug strategy with insults, including former President Obama, the Pope, the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. He has also threatened to kill human rights defenders who attempt to intervene in his war on drugs.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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