The U.S. Needs To Take A Stand Against Duterte


Yasmin Gulec, Contributing Writer

The concept of “the ends justify the means” has always been questionably applied in the real-world, but that doesn’t seem to stop some authoritarian leaders from trying to make it work. The Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, also known as “The Punisher,” has launched a violent war on drug users instead of dedicating policies towards helping them rehabilitate. His controversial policies include giving the police the go-head to kill anyone without questioning them and telling average citizens to “do it yourselves if you have guns.” He is essentially promoting extrajudicial vigilantism and violence to combat the country’s drug epidemic. Sadly, Duterte does not seem to understand or even care about the consequences of his ambivalence for the rule of law.

Declaring war on drug users is not only a grotesquely misinformed attempt at reining in rampant drug abuse, it is a serious violation of basic human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.” But the value of this declaration is lost on Duterte, who simply brushes off any backlash from humanitarian activists, saying: “I don’t care about human rights, believe me.”

Duterte’s method of stopping the drug exchange in the Philippines is blind to the reality of the situation. He cannot see — or chooses not to see — the abject violation of rights when he ordered police and citizens to murder drug users. His policy may have led to the suppression of drug users, but at what cost?

The extreme measures he is taking in order to stop drug use are violent, callous and ignorant. The U.S., which has strong ties to the Philippines, should pressure Duterte into halting his abominable war against drug users and support their right to a fair trial. Stronger actions than diplomacy are necessary, since Duterte clearly has no respect for diplomatic discourse — when President Obama publicly condemned his actions, Duterte called the President a “son of a bitch.” His crudeness towards not only the president of the United States, but also the United Nations should not be condoned. The UN should disregard Duterte’s empty threats about leaving the UN and act on behalf of the people who are suffering under his rule.

Duterte ran on a platform based on an incredibly cruel “war on crime” message, which seems to imply that Filipino voters are not only willing to turn a blind eye to the bloodshed, they endorse it. In this case, the international community has a responsibility to do something about this blatant violation of human rights. A UN member state, the Philippines has already ratified the Human Rights Declaration — it should stand by its word.

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