IN a cutting retort to criticism against President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. told the United Nations on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) not to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.
“We urge everyone to allow us to deal with our domestic challenges in order to achieve our national goals, without undue interference,” Yasay told the UN General Assembly in New York.
There has been growing international alarm over the rising death toll from Duterte’s crackdown on crime, with human rights groups saying that security forces are engaging in extrajudicial killings.
Duterte has vowed to eradicate the illegal drug trade in six months, promising that criminals would be killed in the process. Last week, he sought a six-month extension, saying he did not anticipate the magnitude of the problem and that he could not “kill them all.”
Since he took office on June 30 about 3,000 people have been killed, with around a third of them suspects shot dead by police and the rest murdered by unidentified attackers, according to police statistics.
“We have not and we will never empower our law enforcement agents to shoot-to-kill individuals suspected of drug crimes,” Yasay told the General Assembly.
“Extrajudicial killings have no place in our society, and in our criminal justice system,” he added.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple told The Manila Times Yasay’s statement was a “standard” one in the UN.
“It was tempered by assertions of adherence to human rights, rule of law and due process,” Casiple said.
Moreover, Yasay was simply rejecting accusations about the supposed extrajudicial killings happening in connection with the government’s anti-drug war, the anaylist said.
Last week, Duterte invited the United Nations’ chief and international human rights experts, as well as the European Union, to investigate allegations of widespread extrajudicial killings, but insisted they also face him in a public debate.
Duterte also said US President Barack Obama, who has expressed concern over the drug-related killings, was welcome to probe the anti-drug war.
‘92-percent approval rating’
The Philippines’ top diplomat told the General Assembly that Duterte enjoyed a 92-percent approval rating at home for his stance and suggested that his campaign was misunderstood.
“Our actions, however, have grabbed both the national headlines and international attention for all the wrong reasons,” he said.
He argued that corruption and drugs had “torn apart many of our communities, destroyed our families and snuffed out the hopes and dreams of our people — young and old — for a bright future.”
Invoking the UN’s new sustainable development goals adopted last year, Yasay said his country would not be able to meet those goals without tackling corruption and drugs.
Relations between Duterte and the United Nations have been tense after the newly-elected leader launched several tirades against the world body for its criticism of his tactics, even threatening to pull out — a threat he later withdrew.
Earlier this month, Duterte skipped a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of a meeting in Laos of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, supposedly because of a scheduling conflict.
On August 18, UN special rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and Dainius Pūras called on the Philippine government to stop the wave of killings of people linked to illegal drugs, saying that going after drug traders won’t exempt “state actors” from international legal obligations.
Callamard said Duterte’s supposed directives to kill drug suspects and drug users who don’t surrender were “irresponsible in the extreme and amount to incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law.”
“It is effectively a license to kill,” she said.