FOREIGN critics need to first check their “moral ascendancy” before condemning President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs that has claimed nearly 3,000 lives, Malacañang said on Sunday.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar made the statement over government-run Radyo ng Bayan as he declared the anti-drug war a “success,” a day after Duterte’s return to the country from a tumultuous first international engagement that saw the Philippine leader clash with US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon over human rights.
“The police operations are a success. But there have also been gang wars or internecine [conflicts]where they eliminate each other,” Andanar said.
He said such killings were under investigation by the police.
Andanar was reacting to police reports showing that more than 41 people were being killed each day under the Duterte administration’s anti-crime campaign.
Asked on what were the gains made during Duterte’s participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summits in Laos and a working visit to Indonesia, Andanar said: “The President was able to communicate our interests in exports, imports, maritime security, and that our country will now be following an independent foreign policy.”
“And when it comes to questions of human rights [violations], before we ask … it is not a matter of questioning human rights [violations]. It is a matter of do they have the moral ascendancy to ask about human rights [violations],” Andanar said.
For Andanar, the President did the country proud by taking the United States to task for the massacre of Moros in Mindanao during the pacification campaign of American colonizers a century ago.
“The President made us proud because he fought for our rights and at the same time, he revealed the acts of the imperialists and our colonial masters in the past. We are for an independent foreign policy because we are a sovereign state. We should get up on our feet and wave our flag,” he argued.
“The President was able to convey that we want increased trade among the Asean nations, and we called for rule of law, including that of the Permanent Court of Arbitration,” Andanar added.
The Cabinet official was referring to the July 12 ruling of an international arbitration tribunal that favored the Philippines over China in a maritime dispute over West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The tribunal junked China’s claims over the area based on its “nine-dash line” map, including those covered by the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone
“We should stand by for his (Duterte’s) next trips. Within the month, I believe he will be visiting two more countries for a working visit,” Andanar said.
On Monday last week, Duterte launched an expletive-laden tirade against the US and Obama before leaving for the Asean summits, which aides said was triggered by reports that the US President would “lecture” him on human rights.
The White House cancelled a bilateral meeting between Duterte and Obama that was supposed to take place last Tuesday after the Philippine President’s tirades.
Obama reportedly did not shake hands with Duterte after the East Asia Summit in Vientiane on Thursday, after the Philippine leader brought up the history of the US occupation of the Philippines.
Also on Sunday, Andanar dubbed a “success” the bloody crime war that has claimed nearly 3,000 lives in the Philippines in just two months under Duterte.
But Andanar insisted many of those slain have been killed in “gang wars” and not by shadowy vigilantes allegedly encouraged by the President, as critics have alleged.
Duterte, who took office on June 30 after winning election on a promise to kill tens of thousands of criminals, has vowed to press his campaign, despite growing international criticism.
By the end of last week, at least 1,466 people have been killed by police in anti-drug operations since Duterte took office, police spokesman Sr. Supt. Dionardo Carlos said.
Another 1,490 are classified as “deaths under investigation” referring to people murdered in suspicious circumstances, many of them shot by suspected vigilantes or found dead with crude signs labeling them drug-pushers or criminals.
The government has insisted that those killed by police died because they resisted arrest.
However human rights groups charge that Duterte has been actively encouraging extra-judicial killings, telling police that he will protect them from punishment while urging civilians to kill drug pushers in their community.
United Nations officials, human rights groups, local Catholic Church leaders and some legislators have criticized Duterte’s harsh campaign, saying it is eroding rule of the law in the Philippines.